‘Incident just an accident that can’t be generalized’
KUWAIT CITY, Jan 12: Head of the Kuwaiti Federation of Owners of Domestic Labor Offices Khaled Al-Dakhnan affirmed that 85 percent of the domestic labor offices are empty of applications for weeks due to their reliance on the recruitment of Filipino domestic workers who are currently suspended by authorities in the Philippines after the recent death of a Filipino worker, adding the sector is in a real crisis that could lead to the closure of many offices in case the suspension lasts for more than two months, reports Al-Anba daily.
At the monthly union meeting of the office owners, Al- Dukhnan said the majority of domestic labor offices are currently empty, except for some applications of Sri Lankan citizens, but they are in small numbers, and advance in age (up to forty years old), which may not satisfy the Kuwaiti employers.
He explained that Sri Lankan domestic workers are advance in age, because most of Kuwait’s neighboring countries pay higher commission to the export offices in Sri Lanka to get youthful laborers. He hopes the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs would move quickly to resolve the current crisis through dialogue with relevant authorities in the Philippines, noting the crisis witnessed in the sector at present is a natural result of Kuwait’s reliance on one main country in the recruitment of workers, which is the Philippines. He pointed out that the union has requested time and time again to open new countries and diversify the sources of recruitment to no avail.
With regard to the current cost of domestic labor at present, Al-Dakhnan said “indeed, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a decision in the past few days to maintain the higher price ceiling at 990 dinars, and I expect the decision will not open the way for the development of domestic labor sector in Kuwait, especially with the domestic labor exporting countries’ decision to increase the prices of recruiting trained workers.
This does not mean that we do not wish for the prices to be lower than this, but the domestic labor sector is governed by prices determined by the export countries that have come to prefer neighboring countries, because they are more expensive in terms of recruitment.
Cancellation of the sponsorship system
For his part, Vice-President of the Kuwaiti Federation of Owners of Domestic Labor Offices Abdullah Al-Azmi said the Filipino domestic worker incident is just an accident that cannot be generalized, especially as domestic workers in Kuwait enjoy all their rights and live in security and safety. He pointed to the current situation that requires shifting of domestic labor law and the entire sponsor system, especially as the system has become ineffective and does not comply with the current situation. He stressed that sponsorship system costs the employer recruitment fees and long waiting periods for the arrival of workers – coupled with the problem of workers escaping or refusing to continue the contract. This refl ects negatively on the worker and the sponsor with tension mounting between the two parties. He noted the solution is to operate a system of ‘hiring’ domestic workers after the offices have recruited labor to sponsor them. He explained that a citizen will hire them based on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis in accordance with the employer’s compatibility with the worker.
Diversification and re-employment
Treasurer of the federation, Ali Al-Marzouq, said the decision to ban the recruitment of labor is not the first to be issued against Kuwait in the past years. He expressed surprise at the rate of quick decisions issued against Kuwait despite other countries importing domestic labor have many problems than those witnessed in Kuwait. He added stability of the domestic labor sector has become a popular demand among many citizens and office owners, but the anticipated stability will only happen through opening new markets and diversifying the sources of recruitment from the laborexporting countries. With regard to re-employment, Al-Marzouq indicated the union has taken all possible means to restore this right to the office owners, noting the door of Judiciary, the National Assembly and concerned authorities have been explored to restore it. He stressed that re-employment of workers greatly contributes to resolving various crises the office owners suffer. It also gives laborers a second chance to work in the event of problems.
Derbas: Ban was expected and solution is to diversify sources of recruitment
As’ad Derbas, owner of a domestic labor recruitment office pointed out that Kuwait did not learn from the last lesson since the first ban, indicating the current situation was expected years ago, in light of the presence of only one main labor importing country. He said, “it is not reasonable to place the fate of a large segment such as domestic labor sector in the hands of only one country.” He added, “diversifying sources would contribute to reducing prices, and various options will be available for citizens to choose what suits them”. He anticipated the problem will be solved soon, especially as the ban decision came to Philippines’ desire to pass some items within the agreements signed with Kuwait before lifting the temporary ban.
Nabhan: Expect a third/ fourth ban if the problem is not solved from its roots
Another office owner, Abdullah Al-Nabhan, said the issue of banning the export of Filipino workers to Kuwait is not new, especially as it’s the second time in two years. “It is expected that the suspension will return a second, third and fourth time if this crisis is not resolved from its roots, so we need to take a firm stance and press for concerned authorities to amend the recruitment law in its current form”, he said. Also, Al-Nabhan called on the administration of domestic labor to allocate a special office to receive complaints from domestic labor offices, especially after transferring its dependency from the Ministry of Interior to the Public Authority for Manpower- given that the offices often receive complaints from external offices and workers.