KUWAIT: Hundreds of Bangladeshi workers, mostly cleaners, staged a sit-in protest yesterday to demand salaries, overtime and leave pay. The workers have not reported to work for the last three days and will only do so when all their demands are met, they said. The workers, who are housed in ‘camps’ in Jleeb Al-Shuyiukh and Khaitan, are assigned to various offices and malls throughout Kuwait.
Mamun P, a Bangladeshi worker from Chittagong, who is acting as their spokesperson, told Kuwait Times the number of workers on strike could reach up to 3,000. “All of them have not reported to work since Saturday. We have been working like slaves. We work 16 hours a day, but the additional eight hours is unpaid. They have been promising to pay, but nothing has happened,” said Mamun. “Some of us here have not been paid since one to three months. We want a regular salary because our families need the money back home. We also have to eat, and if we do not have money, how can we survive?” he asked.
Mamun revealed around 15 of their colleagues, mostly from Bangladesh, were taken into police custody last week. “At 6:00 pm last Thursday, several policemen came to our flats to look for 15 workers who were not reporting for duty. They were called one by one and they were all taken to the police station in Jleeb. Until now, we have heard nothing about them. All we know is that they were arrested and detained just because they want to get their salaries, but the officials of the company told police to arrest them instead,” he said.
The situation of workers has been brought to the attention of the Bangladeshi embassy. Asked on how the embassy is providing assistance to the workers on strike, the embassy’s First Secretary (Labor Department) Abdul Latif Khan said he held a meeting with the company’s officials. “We spoke to the company officials yesterday, and they said the workers were paid (yesterday). The company told us that all the remaining dues will be paid soon. They will get all the names of people who are not paid and they will pay them very soon. That’s the latest from the company managers when we talked to them yesterday,” Khan said.
As for the situation of the 15 detained workers, Khan told Kuwait Times that as per the managers, the workers were arrested over what they described as criminal offenses. “But I personally appealed to them to release them, especially if the criminal offense they are talking about is ‘acting rudely’ with their managers. They have a reason to do so, but of course I told them to follow the rules,” he said. “The company officials confirmed that some of them had misbehaved with the managers, but we requested them not to punish the workers with arrests. We are negotiating and hoping to resolve this soon,” Khan concluded.
By Ben Garcia