Contractor offers big raises to slow exodus from Saudi Arabia

Friday, July 2, 2004

ABU DHABI BAe Systems, the largest Western contractor in Saudi Arabia, has offered substantial pay increases for Westerners to remain in the kingdom.

Company sources said BAe has offered Australian, British and U.S. nationals a salary increase of more than $1,600 a month to remain in Saudi Arabia. BAe employs about 2,400 Westerners in the kingdom and the sources said each one of them was eligible for the increase.

"There is no time limit placed on the bonuses," a BAe source said. "We just can't afford the departure of those who maintain our programs in this country."

BAe and its employees have been targets of Al Qaida, Middle East Newsline reported. The company has facilities in several cities in the kingdom, including Jedda and Riyad.

The offer for a pay increase came after BAe failed to halt the departure of Western nationals by threats to cancel bonuses and other fees at the end of their contracts -- a sum that for many exceeded $50,000. Company sources said about 10 percent of Western employees announced their resignations and some of them have already left Saudi Arabia. Most have been negotiating with the company to receive some of their bonuses.

Like most companies, BAe requires employees to provide 90-day notice before departing. Other companies have threatened to stop all back pay unless the 90-day notice was honored.

BAe is the leading British contractor for Al Yamamah, the 16-year program that garnered sales of more than $42 billion in fighter-jet, air trainers and minesweepers in Saudi Arabia. The company has reached agreement with the Saudi Defense Ministry to extend Al Yamamah and expects Riyad to order as many as 50 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft over the next year.

Over the last year, BAe lost more than 1,000 Western nationals, some of them replaced by Saudis. The sources said the company was concerned that many foreign employees would leave for their summer vacation and not return.

"I think Saudi Arabia will do everything it can to show the country remains a safe place for experts to work," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal said.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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