KuwaitOther News

Assembly panel accuses govt of appointing more expats

Unions insist on raising annual leave to 35 days

KUWAIT: The proposed amendments to the labor law in the private sector appear to be increasingly becoming a flashpoint between MPs and trade unions on one hand and the government on the other. Head of the National Assembly’s health and labor committee MP Humoud Al-Khudhair said trade unions that attended yesterday’s meeting to discuss the amendments insisted that annual leave days must be raised from the current 30 to 35 days.

The amendment, along with other minor changes to the labor law approved in 2010, was passed in the first reading by the Assembly last month without any government objection. However, the government later rejected the amendment, saying it will harm Kuwaiti businessmen – especially small businesses -and only a small number of Kuwaitis working in the private sector will benefit from the increase.

Khudhair said more meetings will be held to discuss the amendments before the committee holds its final vote and sends the report to the Assembly for the second and final vote on April 16. The lawmaker hinted at a possible compromise with the government without providing details. MPs have said that they wanted to increase benefits in the private sector to encourage Kuwaitis to join the sector and reduce pressure on the public sector, which employs around 80 percent of Kuwaiti manpower.

Meanwhile, the head of the Assembly’s human resources development committee – a panel entrusted with pressing the government to create more jobs for nationals – stopped short of accusing the government of cheating on the issue of creating jobs for the Kuwaitis by dismissing expats. MP Khalil Al-Saleh said the government dismisses a certain number of expats from government jobs, but later ministries appoint a larger number of expats on temporary contracts.

Then the government provides figures on expat public sector employment without including the temporary employees, claimed Saleh, who warned that he will resort to grilling any minister who fails to find jobs for Kuwaitis. The lawmaker said the policy of replacement stipulating dismissing expats and replacing them with Kuwaitis is not working, and accordingly is unacceptable.

Saleh warned MPs are running out of patience, adding, “we have become suspicious that there are some who work against Kuwaiti employment and at the same time help crowd ministries with expats”. The lawmaker claimed 600 Kuwaiti mechanical engineers cannot find jobs, adding the government should work more seriously to create jobs for 36,000 Kuwaitis who graduate annually, with the figure expected to rise to 60,000 in 2030. Saleh called on authorities to correct the demographic structure because “the number of expatriates has crossed three million and this is unacceptable”. Separately, MPs who attended a meeting with the oil minister said the minister and other officials did not provide a clear answer whether the ministry will increase its employment of Kuwaitis.

By B Izzak

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