The department of public relations and security information at the interior ministry reported that 600 employees of a cleaning company in Abbasiya gathered in protest because they did not receive their salaries. The ministry and concerned authorities dealt with the crowd without any incident, but I do not think the issue is over for those poor people who are not demanding the impossible. They only want their right as agreed according to the contracts. If they receive their money, they won’t strike. Luckily, the issue ended peacefully and hopefully by now, they have been paid.
The strike is nothing new. We regularly see workers rallying to demand what is rightfully theirs and what is being wrongly and unjustly held: their salaries.
These salaries are in accordance with the contracts they agreed upon before coming to Kuwait. What angers me is the recurrence of such gatherings by poor workers who have no other option, no other recourse and no one to help them. The owners of companies who deny the salaries of their workers must be punished.
I think the problem here is that the issue is not about a worker who needs and demands his salary and the greedy owner who does not want to pay up, but the administrative corruption and the spread of wasta that have encouraged some owners of companies to persist with injustice and denying people’s rights.
Who among us would accept not being paid fairly and in a timely manner? These people work long hours and they earned that money. It is theirs by right and by law.
It is really hard for these poor workers who suffer from homesickness, being away from their families as well as the pressure of long working hours in a very hot climate to find that when it’s the end of the month, they can’t even access their meager wages.
Some are forced to begging, others paid so low they cannot survive without begging. When you see cleaners in the street, they never ask you openly for money, but they may give you a hint like by greeting you, and I personally don’t see any harm in giving them some money to make them happy. This quarter or half dinar may not mean a thing to you, but for them it can buy food. I think that humanitarian aid for them, either by old clothes or a small amount or food, will not hurt anyone.
Recently, a local newspaper published an investigation into suicide in Kuwait, and I know that this issue is sensitive and undesirable to speak about openly. But the truth of the matter is that suicide rates in Kuwait are rising compared to previous years – 78 people ended their lives over the past year. The report mentioned that the previous year recorded 73 cases of suicide, while 2015 saw 75 suicides, and 2014 about 61 suicides.
We are a very small society and the population is not large. These figures are huge. We must look into the reasons that led those people to commit suicide. I see that as a society, we are also responsible for expatriates who are living in our country and the problems they may face such as not receiving salaries, abuse and injustice, and we should not see the matter as a personal or private one.
Most expat workers come from poor countries and often borrow money to find a way to be here, all hoping to earn some money for their families. I think it is important for the health and social affairs ministries to follow up such issues. The cleaning workers are one of the most poorly paid, so they should be cared for and protected.