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MPs urge quick approval of unified public sector wages

MP Majed Al-Mutairi

KUWAIT: MPs yesterday called on the government to quickly complete the long-awaited unified pay scale for government employees to achieve justice and equality among all employees. The new pay scale was submitted by the government to the National Assembly a few years ago, but was withdrawn after criticism that it does not achieve equality among employees in various government departments and takes away some benefits from some.

MP Majed Al-Mutairi said the strategic payroll alternative, as the new pay scale is referred to, should be accepted and approved quickly if it is based on a scientific and comprehensive study. But the lawmaker said that any such study must be first reviewed by specialists, and warned against taking away any benefits currently enjoyed by employees. The lawmaker said the new pay scale must not be applied to vital sectors like the oil sector and the national guards, adding that attempts to reduce benefits to such sectors will not be accepted.

He said the new pay scale must be transparent, achieve justice and equality, and above all, provide for raising salaries to help citizens cope with the high cost of living. The new pay scale should be fair with employees who do not get the same wages and benefits like their counterparts in other ministries. Mutairi also insisted that the wages of Kuwaiti employees must not be touched.

MP Saleh Ashour blamed the government for delaying the new pay scale, recalling that it was the government which withdrew the draft it had submitted to the Assembly, adding the government now puts the blame on the Assembly. He said the new pay scale, if implemented correctly, will have important positive results among government employees, as under the scheme, the employee will get the same salary and benefits regardless of the place of appointment in any government department.

MP Khalil Al-Saleh said the proposed pay scale will be difficult to implement under the current employment policy and stressed he will reject any cuts to the wages and benefits of Kuwaitis. He said the existing gap between government employees despite having similar qualifications is the cause of social and financial disparity among employees. The lawmaker however ruled out the possibility of approving the pay scale in the coming term, because it may not be very popular, especially with elections around the corner.

Meanwhile, informed sources said State Minister for Economic Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel said she will present a study to the Cabinet calling for passing a technical recommendation related to implementing a quota and decide the percentages of expat labor allowed in the country. She said the quota will start with new work permits until it develops in the future to set a percentage that no community will exceed, which is 25-30 percent of the number of Kuwaitis.

Sources said Aqeel is serious about fulfilling her promises to the National Assembly to implement steps to deal with the excessive increase in expats in Kuwait, which exceeds the market’s needs, besides the overwhelming number of marginal laborers that forms a security risk and burden on services.

The sources said Aqeel is careful about mega projects in Kuwait, particularly the Silk City and the northern economic zone, which require a large number of expat labor, and if things are left as they are, thousands of marginal workers will enter the country, making the problem worse and its solution more difficult. She said the manpower authority is currently issuing work permits, which is not its job – rather it should prepare a strategy to set how work permits are issued, to whom and for how long.

In a related development, a recent report by the health ministry revealed that 2,214,865 expat workers were examined in the five years from 2012 to 2016. The report said 12,422 expats were not granted residency permits and deported due to infectious diseases in this period, including 373 expats infected with malaria, 497 with filaria and 4,081 with tuberculosis. The report said among those deported were 1,158 infected with AIDS, 4,177 with hepatitis B and 2,203 with hepatitis C.

By B Izzak and A Saleh

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