Oil giant Saudi Aramco has come under fire after photos showing one of its migrant workers wearing a surgical mask and a large hand-sanitiser dispenser went viral on social media.
Twitter users described the images posted on Tuesday as “racist” and “classist” as the worker appeared to be walking around distributing sanitiser to staff members inside and outside one of its buildings.
One Twitter user, commenting on the images, said: “Gulf classism. A gift from Aramco”.
اهداء من أرامكو pic.twitter.com/FpWsUNw7mE
— هشام فقيه (@HishamFageeh) March 10, 2020
While some described the move as slavery “repackaged”, others said the person behind the idea needed to “sanitise their brain”.
Slavery was never abolished here, just repackaged. https://t.co/W1gFWeWLVl
— Naser (@NaserMestarihi) March 10, 2020
صاحب الفكره محتاج تعقيم لدماغه
— مرزوقه (@mrz_4l) March 10, 2020
In a statement released later on Tuesday, the company expressed its “strong dissatisfaction with this abusive behaviour that was used to emphasise the importance of sanitization, without the approval of the company’s concerned party”.
“The company immediately stopped this act and took strict measures to prevent it from happening again,” the statement said.
In response to Aramco’s statement, a Twitter user said the company needed to apologise to the “person himself” not to the public.
لاتعتذروا لنا اعتذروا من الشخص نفسه وكرموه وانشروا صور تكريمه ،،، وصاحب الفكره اللي ماخاف ربي ولا احترم العامل لبسوه التعقيم وخلوه يلف الشركه يوم كامل . pic.twitter.com/rsCEadk9Dy
— خالد السهمي (@khaled_alsahmi) March 10, 2020
Translation: “Don’t apologise to us, apologise to the person himself, honour him and post a picture of it … The one behind the idea, who did not fear God or respect the worker, make him wear the dispenser and walk around the company for an entire day.”
Saudi Arabia has been slammed for its human rights record and its treatment of migrant workers.
They make up a large chunk of the workforce across the region, which includes the Gulf Cooperation Council bloc of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.
Another user said an apology is not enough and called for accountability.
الإعتذار لم و لن يكفي ،و يجب معاقبة صاحب الفكرة وتعويض العامل مادياً ومعنوياً .. مشاعر الناس مش لعبة بيدكم! pic.twitter.com/zzYPKZOuQT
— اللُجين🤍 (@looletaa2) March 10, 2020
Translation: “Apologising is not enough, the person behind the idea needs to be punished, and the worker needs to be compensated financially and emotionally … people’s feelings are not a toy.”
In December 2019, Aramco’s record initial public offering gave it a price tag of $1.7 trillion, making it the world’s most valuable company.
But its shares have fallen more than 11 percent since the start of the year amid concerns the new coronavirus outbreak will slow oil demand from China and hurt the global economy.
The coronavirus outbreak has continued to spread across at least 100 countries. According to the World Health Organization, more than 118,000 cases of the virus have been confirmed globally, and more than 4,200 deaths have been recorded.