KUWAIT CITY, July 15: The Labor Law in the country is inefficient as a legal system that is supposed to regulate all matters related to the workers. It does not protect the rights of workers, particularly in terms of work-related struggles. It seems to be walking on the path of failure, victimizing workers by neglecting most of their rights stipulated in the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The Public Authority for Manpower is absolutely absent when it comes to employers’ violations against workers. While the work contract states a certain amount of salary for the worker, the employer obligates the worker to withdraw the said amount from the bank and give half of the amount back to the employer. In the contract and related paper work, the salary is transferred to the bank. Everything seems legal and in line with the Labour Law, but the truth is that employers are secretly playing tricks on the Public Authority for Manpower. They take advantage of the need of a migrant worker to force him into accepting half of the salary, or else, he will be deported!
Deportation and the ‘absconding complaint’ are legal tools being used for purposes other than the intended purpose — two weapons to threaten and blackmail workers and force them to follow orders not stated in the contract and they have not been informed about! Otherwise, they shall face an absconding complaint and end up jobless. “This is how it goes, accept it or just leave for another worker to do your job!” Due to their need for the job and their difficult situation, the workers accept while the Public Authority for Manpower knows nothing about it.
It is also disappointing that Kuwait did not join the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. This creates a huge gap in the protection of workers’ rights. The rights of workers are not fully regulated in the law. Since Kuwait did not join the convention, most of the workers’ rights are not covered by the national law.
For example, Code 40 of the convention states that migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to form associations and trade unions in the State of employment for the promotion and protection of their economic, social, cultural and other interests. On the other hand, the national law seems to restrict the establishment of associations only for Kuwaitis and workers can join only as members which makes it pointless! Why can’t the worker, who is being forced to work under certain circumstances that are not stipulated in the contract without the knowledge of the Public Authority for Manpower, establish an association through which he can air his grievances and take action? It seems the law is encouraging employers to mistreat workers as the latter cannot say anything about it!
Finally, the domestic workers, who are being treated like machines working for 24 hours, cannot find a way to approach the Domestic Labor Department in the Ministry of Interior simply because they cannot find a way out of their employers’ houses. I have received emails from domestic workers stating that their employers did not give them food for three days. This is heartbreaking! They were able to contact me only once — when a home service salon lady came to do some work for their employers and then they got to talk to her. How can these workers be saved?
Unfortunately, workers will face a great danger if Kuwait does not join the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families soon!
By Atyab Alshatti, Esq.