Violation of foreign workers’ rights

Muna Al Fuzai

Can you imagine working in an arduous job in Kuwait such as construction, for example, under the hot sun in the summer or in the cold in winter, and not get your salary for months? You are forced to perform the work with the same efficiency without demanding your rights!

Foreign workers in private companies in Kuwait are facing recurring problems. Not all companies are alike, but the repetition of such issues means that there is no final solution and the government is not serious in putting an end to these problems, however small or limited. The failure to receive the agreed salary and other necessities is something that is offensive to all of us. I know that it may mean nothing to wealthy officials, but it means a lot to poor and hardworking workers who are away from their families, waiting for their meager salaries without a response.

The issue is not limited to a company or certain number of workers, and affects the reputation of the country and reflects a shameful image of violation of human rights. I believe that the fulfillment of salary contracts and labor rights are basic human rights, which must be monitored by various government bodies, because the practices of some companies destroy the work of the state and civil society institutions.

We are a country that relies on foreign workers for infrastructure and public services such as construction, cleaning and others. We must think about the rights of these poor people, which is indeed required under all moral and humanitarian principles. If we want to commission large development projects, we will undoubtedly need additional labor, so we must review the mechanisms of preserving their rights and ensuring stability in the country, fight marginal employment and combat iqama traders and law manipulators.

It is necessary to move quickly and take appropriate measures to address the problems of workers of all kinds to protect their rights, because labor strikes distort the reputation of the country and undermine its status, although Kuwait has a distinguished history in issuing labor legislation and establishing trade unions for more than five decades.

The Kuwait Human Rights Society (KHRS) has been monitoring the problems of workers who have been complaining of not receiving their salaries for up to 10 months, as well as not having their passports. Because of this, they have been violating the residency law and have accrued fines because the company didn’t renew their residencies or paid their salaries. Paying these workers their dues may end the problem, but it won’t be long until a similar issue arises.

I wonder if the company finally pays those workers, will they still be fined for violating the residency law? I think this issue needs a mutual decision by the ministry of social affairs and labor and the ministry of interior to exempt these workers from the fines, because it was out of their control. The government must take strict measures against companies that violate local and international laws relating to workers’ rights, especially since Kuwait has ratified seven of the eight fundamental conventions in accordance with ILO standards that guarantee the rights of workers.

I believe that it’s time to consider the issues of these workers, starting with giving them their rights and salaries, as well as respecting and not humiliating and exploiting them. Employers who don’t pay their workers should be penalized, while the employment needs of violating companies should be reassessed.

By Muna Al-Fuzai
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