By Stelios Orphanides
J&P Overseas, a subsidiary of Cyprus’s construction industry flagship Joannou & Paraskevaides Group is apparently facing financial difficulties and has left its workers in Saudi Arabia unpaid for months, according to press reports.
In a leaked letter addressed to the company’s director Andreas Papathomas J&P Overseas workers based in Saudi Arabia, including several dozen Cypriots, say that as a result of the company’s failure to fulfil its obligations to its staff, around 6,700 of them have to live under miserable conditions, as they lack funds to even buy food.
Workers have no access to water at the construction sites in the Arab kingdom which in turn affects sanitation, they said. On top of that, the company has failed so far to pay for the renewal of work permits and as a result, workers risk prison.
The company did not respond to requests for comment.
“Everyone is away today and will be back on Wednesday,” said a woman who answered the phone at the company.
In their letter, the workers said they are being forced to borrow money from their families to pay for their return air tickets and added that the company’s operations are plagued with frequent strikes and resignations. Third country embassies are also recipients of repatriation requests by J&P Overseas staffers.
The workers also complained that their healthcare insurance had expired and that company creditors are visiting the construction sites threatening the staff.
The parent company, established in 1941 in the form of a partnership between Stelios Joannou and George Paraskevaides, expanded its operations abroad shortly after Cyprus gained independence from the Britain. Since then, it has become involved in a wide range projects including airports, highways, bridges, railways, energy infrastructure, dams and housing.
According to the press reports, the workers blame Papathomas for mismanagement, rejecting claims that the delay in getting paid resulted from the Saudi contractor’s failure to do so, and ask for action to prevent the company from becoming insolvent.