Kuwait prince calls for protection of expat workers’ rights

August 5th, 2008 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Aug 5 (IANS) Crown Prince of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has urged the city state’s labour authorities to do everything possible to protect the rights of expatriate workers and maintain Kuwait’s reputation abroad. “Kuwait will never allow anything to tarnish its good image abroad,” the state-run Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) quoted Sheikh Nawaf as telling the ‘Al-Watan’ Arabic daily in an interview.

Indians, numbering 550,000, form a major chunk of the expatriate population in Kuwait.

The Kuwait cabinet has fixed a minimum monthly wage of 40 Kuwaiti dinars ($150) for menial workers - mostly cleaners - and KD70 ($263) for security guards, and has warned companies not complying with it of stern action.

Stressing that the rights of expatriate workers should be protected by all possible means, the crown prince said the protection of workers’ rights was in line with Islamic views.

“Therefore, we shall never condone any injustice against the most vulnerable who are basically here to make ends meet,” he said.

Observing that expatriate workers basically come to Kuwait to find a decent living, he said this segment had “risen up” because they had not been granted their rights.

His comments came following a spate of strikes by Asian workers, mostly Bangladeshis, recently.

“These people work under extreme conditions and, therefore, they should not be deprived of their rights,” Sheikh Nawaf said.

Last Sunday, members of that Gulf nation’s Human Rights Committee in parliament met with representatives of government departments to discuss issues pertaining to foreign labour and measures to improve their living conditions.

The MPs met with representatives of the ministries of social affairs and labour, interior, education and health as well as the Central Tenders Committee (CTC) to discuss the recent strikes staged by Asian workers and how the government dealt with it.

According to reports, these workers staged the strikes and did not show up at their work place because companies employing them failed to honour some 400,000 contracts.

“These contracts lack the minimum wage and (are) not consistent,” Human Rights Committee chairman Waleed Al-Tabtabae told reporters after the meeting.

He said that companies must pay the wages of workers on time without delay.

The committee also called for continuous inspection of the nature of work being done and the working hours so as to avoid any human trafficking.

Al-Tabtabae said the committee has finalized a bill tackling human trafficking “which would be very civilized and in harmony with international standards”.

Kuwait’s Minister for Social Affairs and Labour Bader Al-Duwaila has also informed the committee that two housing cities for foreign workers would be built in the areas of Sabhan and Shedadiya, in addition to six other cities.

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