The Cyprus-based J&P Overseas construction company is in a negative spotlight this week, after a series of damning letters sent by employees to Riyadh’s management were made public.
Disgruntled J&P employees in Saudi Arabia wrote a letter to the executive director in Riyadh, Anrdeas Papathoma, blaming the company for workers not being paid for months, not having adequate health care, and not being able to sort out their legal status in the Kingdom, among other issues.
According to online daily Kathimerini, which broke the story months ago, about 200 employees have remained unpaid, while the Labour Ministry in Cyprus is looking into a complaint by a Greek Cypriot employee alleging overdue pay and benefits by J&P Overseas. But it is not clear at this point whether the Cypriot state would have any jurisdiction over contacts signed between private citizens and companies operating under another country’s laws and regulations.
The letter, which is the third in a row according to daily Politis, also says there are 6,700 workers in the company who are facing appalling living conditions. Construction crew and others on staff do not even have enough money to buy food and there is water shortage and filth around the plants.
Another big concern is legal status for many workers, who are at risk of being sent to jail if they overstay their work visas. But the company, which reportedly holds their passports, is not renewing their documents and cannot even afford their plane ticket back home.
Other media reports suggest there could be a major power play going on inside the company
President Nicos Anastasiades paid an on-site visit to the Cypriot-owned company during his January visit to the Kingdom, but little was known publicly about the conditions of the company’s workers. At the time, it was widely reported that the recent crackdown on corruption, led by the Saudi King, was one of the reasons J&P could not pay workers. A number of businessmen were imprisoned and that set in motion a major upset in the financial vitality of the rich city.
But media reports also suggest there could be a major power play going on inside the company, as different factions who inherited the colossal business are now taking different positions and have been investing in diametrically opposite strategies. Other problems reported online in various forums by former workers include allegations of non-professional or cliquish behaviour and lack of international management staff.
Company vows to make things right
J&P Overseas issued a response, assuring workers that management would do anything possible to fix the problem including selling assets of the company. But a growing number of enmployees have lost faith in the company according to sources in the media.
The news has hit hard back in Cyprus, as the Joannou & Paraskevaides Group is considered a very powerful player in the construction industry worldwide. Building dams and tunnels in Cyprus along with highways and all sorts of projects, it is known for large scale works and professionalism. It started back in 1941 when mega benefactors Stelios Joannou and George Paraskevaides formed a partnership, which would take off rapidly following the end of WWII.
The J&P Overseas branch came about in 1969 when the company worked on the Dhahram Airport, which earned the company numerous recommendations and client consultations.