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‘Workers deserve better’

Colleague Iqbal Al-Ahmad has made a smart move on the issue of the Philippine employment crisis in Kuwait and the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to ban Filipinos from traveling and working in Kuwait. This decision has harmed our reputation during a conference which was held to support and reconstruct Iraq.

Al-Ahmad on the Al Arabiya TV and social media asked Filipino women who work for her to talk freely about their experience in Kuwait and on the issue of safety and stability some of whom have spent decades working in Kuwait without harassment or feeling pains of injustice.

Of course, the image of the Filipinos and others who work in Kuwait is not joyful or ideal. I say that with due respect for the reputation that is no less than the love and care for any other citizen to our homeland, but we must highlight the following simple things:

First, Kuwait is a Third World country, and most, if not all, of what is going on is not perfect. How can we all deal with the domestic workers ideally, or even sooner?

Two, more than two-thirds of the population of Kuwait is expatriates, and any human abuse made by them against those who work for them shall be attributed to Kuwait, whether we like it or not. The murdered Filipino domestic helper was working for a Lebanese family. The family reportedly left Kuwait some time ago, and the main culprit here is Kuwait, not the Lebanese family.

Third, Kuwaitis are not homogenous, neither ethnically, educationally or from the cultural point of view. They also have a considerable number of illiterate people among them, and therefore, it is not possible that everyone can be homogeneous in dealings with their employees, especially the domestic workers and this applies to others.

Four, we say our justice is fair and that almost has nothing to do with labor problems. However, the issue is related to how the various security agencies deal with this category of the people due to lack of interpreters at police stations when the complaints are being filed against employers.

This is in addition to the government failure to provide humanitarian shelters, delaying their deportation after payment of their dues and the inhuman delay when it comes to honoring their financial rights.

Five, we must take advantage of this serious crisis within its scope to arrange our human relations with this group. Moreover, the security services must treat them humanely when complaints of aggression are filed by them and be more resolute with those accused of assault, whether they are citizens or residents.

Six, the government must seriously consider transferring the responsibility of supervising domestic workers to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor and keep other issues with the Interior Ministry.

Seven, the Government agencies must deal firmly with any complaints regarding the failure of institutions or companies in paying the salaries of their workers. The delay must not exceed one month, with exemption from any fines related to the conditions of their residence or the employer’s retention of their passports.

The failure of the government agencies to pay dues to a contractor does not mean his failure to pay salaries for his workers. The contractors must not use the demonstration by the workers as a tool to pressure the government to tolerate their violations.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor must provide temporary shelters for workers but it is not enough because these people need their salaries to send to their families because they are the breadwinners for their families — they who work for us.

The rule of law and humanity that we talk about is not only a matter of laws, buildings, courts and police stations, but we must be a State of attitudes, actions and be aware of their rights and show solidarity with them instead of just pitying their condition and seeking mercy for them.

The practice of justice is more important than the texts of the laws. The worker or domestic laborer has no time to wait for the court to issue a verdict in his favor. He wants immediate justice, and this is one of his simplest rights.

Finally, the President of the Philippines may have his calculations and reasons for focusing on Kuwait alone, complaining about treating his citizens, and I am not interested here in knowing them, but I hope this is an opportunity to improve and develop our dealings with this denomination of people that makes our lives more comfortable and beautiful. A life-long experience shows they really deserve a better humanitarian treatment.

e-mail: habibi.enta1@gmail.com

By Ahmad Al Sarraf



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