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Draft bill stiffens penalties on recruitment violations

KUWAIT CITY, June 18: MP Kamil Al-Awadhi has presented a draft law to amend Article 138 of the Private Sector Labor Law number 6/2010. In his proposal, Al-Awadhi stressed the need to impose tougher penalties on those proven to have violated recruitment regulations in a bid to protect the rights of workers and interests of the Kuwaiti society.

He called for revision of Article 138 to be as follows: “Without prejudice to more severe penalties stipulated in any other law, whoever violates the third paragraph of Article 10 of this law will be imprisoned for not more than five years and fined not less than KD 5,000 and not more than KD 10,000; or any one of these penalties.

This is in addition to the cancellation of agricultural and industrial land areas allocated for the licensee, including revocation of the license for engaging in a criminal activity for a period not exceeding three years”. The current version of the article imposes a jail sentence of not more than three years, fine of not less than KD 1,000 and not more than KD 5,000; or one of these penalties on whoever violates the recruitment regulations.

Article 10 of the existing labor law specifies the procedures and rules for the recruitment of non-Kuwaitis in a way that enables the concerned ministry to control and regulate the labor market in accordance with the goal of the country to replace expatriate personnel with national manpower gradually. In light of the aforementioned goal, this article prohibits an employer from hiring expatriate workers from abroad or locally without providing jobs or if proven he has no actual need for the recruited workers. Employers are not also allowed to hire non- Kuwaitis without obtaining a work permit from the concerned labor department.

These measures are aimed at limiting the number of marginal workers in the country and organizing the labor market to ensure that an expatriate laborer works only for the employer who hired him from abroad. This also obligates the employer to shoulder the expenses for the laborer’s repatriation.

On the other hand, every time the ministry rejects an employer’s request to hire workers from abroad it should clearly explain its decision. However, the amount of capital should not be a reason for rejection to ensure monitoring of the performance of the government in case of rejection. If the worker resigns and joins another company, the latter should bear the cost for the laborer’s repatriation when the original sponsor files an absconding case against the worker. In his explanatory note, Al-Awadhi pointed out the law is aimed at protecting the rights of both the workers and employers.

He stressed the need to take into consideration the fact that some employers recruit workers from abroad in exchange for an amount the two parties have agreed upon in advance to allow the worker to enter the country. He argued the penalties specified in the current version of the law do not match the gravity of the violations which have a negative impact on the demography and social status of the country. He said this leads to the proliferation of jobless expatriates; thereby, posing a grave threat to the social fabric. Asserting the phenomenon reflects negatively on the State, private companies and the workers; the lawmaker said Kuwait remains on the blacklist of countries enmeshed in human trafficking issues. He also attributed the rising crime rate to the presence of a large number of marginal workers compelled to engage in criminal acts to fulfill their financial obligations.

He added the private sector suffers due to such malpractices, especially when the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor tightened rules on the recruitment of workers from other countries. He pointed out the private companies have no option but to hire locally despite the lack of professional skills, qualifications and experience among the applicants. He went on to say a number of projects; especially that of the youths, have been suspended due to the restrictions.

Elaborating on the negative effect on the workers, the lawmaker lamented most foreign workers enter the country without any guarantee that his rights will be protected. In the meantime, the Health, Social Affairs and Labor Committee approved Wednesday a draft bill on the health insurance for retired citizens registered in the Public Institution for Social Security.

According to Committee Chairman MP Saad Al-Khanfour, both the Parliament and government have endorsed the proposal. Al-Khanfour added they postponed discussions on the proposed health insurance fees for expatriates on visit visas or those obtaining the no-objection certificate, pending amendment of Article Two by the Legislative and Legal Affairs Committee before referring it to the Health Committee for approval. He said the Health Insurance Bill contains 15 articles approved by the committee and Health Ministry. He disclosed a supervisory body in the ministry will be tasked to monitor the performance of private hospitals.

The bill stipulates that the beneficiaries are retired citizens registered in the Public Institution for Social Security and other segments may be added through a decision issued by the minister. The ministry will shoulder the cost of the health insurance which is mandatory.

Moreover, the health insurance covers fees for medical examinations, treatment in clinics with public doctors and specialists, laboratory tests, X-ray and surgical procedures (except plastic of cosmetic surgery), as well as the treatment, medicines and stay in hospitals (normal and emergency situations), and ordinary dental treatments and medications. The bill mandates the contracted insurance companies to provide the beneficiaries with insurance cards and guidelines on the scope or limits of coverage.

For his part, Minister of Health Ali Al- Obaidi clarified the health insurance policy will be applied to retired citizens first. He revealed the panel discussed a number of proposals in this regard before reaching an agreement to apply it first on the retirees as they visit clinics or hospitals frequently and easy access to their personal information. He said this is the initial stage of implementation which will be done on an experimental basis for the government to correct flaws prior to the inclusion of other social segments. He added the insurance covers numerous services, including routine clinical visits, medications, overnight stays, X-rays and surgery, except plastic surgery; indicating these services are subject to change if the minister finds it necessary.

Asked about the manner of implementation, the minister disclosed the bidding will be open to a number of insurance companies, as well as third parties acting as supervisory bodies over these companies, to ensure the best services are offered to the beneficiaries. In another development, Budgets and Final Accounts Committee Chairman MP Adnan Abdulsamad said they noticed an increase in the budget allocated for 521 projects which are currently being implemented. He revealed they requested for the formation of a committee to supervise these projects and solve any issues that might emerge during implementation. He added they also asked the government to construct buildings for public institutions which are currently operating in rented structures in a bid to decrease expenditures


By: Abubakar A. Ibrahim and Ahmed Al-Naqeeb Arab Times Staff

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