Workers face nonpayment, forced to take leaves

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Early morning yesterday, mall employees reported to work even though they had heard the news before midnight of the closure of malls and salons. Most workers were afraid of a deduction from their salaries if they failed to show up to work. “I knew they will no longer allow workers to come inside malls, but I still came because my employer told me to report to work,” said Nash, a shop attendant at Marina Mall. “My boss called me and said you should go and check and if they will allow you to enter the mall,” he said.

A beauty salon worker in Salmiya said her boss called her at night and told her and her colleague not to report to work, but early morning yesterday, the boss changed her mind. “She told me to take all the salon equipment because we will be providing home service; my colleague and I were laughing because we had planned to clean the house, but it’s okay. We are all here to work, so I am ready to work at any time of the day. My only wish is for the two of us not to encounter a positive coronavirus carrier – we don’t want to be infected,” the salon worker named Mina told Kuwait Times.

A restaurant worker in Qurain told Kuwait Times they were all asked to work, and failure to show up means no salary. “From the beginning of the government declaration of the holidays, we were asked to work. But the problem is we do not have customers. But it’s okay as they said they will give us our salaries,” said the barista.

Another worker in a mall complained of non-payment of salaries during the mall closure period. “Today we were asked to report to work only to sign a document in which we needed to agree to non-payment of salaries until March 29. I signed it because the HR officer told me if you will not sign, you can resign and go back to your country,” she said.

“I hope the government of Kuwait forces the employer to pay the salaries of the workers. We don’t want this problem that we are all experiencing. I want to work and get money. The problem is they said they are not ready to pay us – why pass the burden to us? At the end of the day, I have to pay my house rent and other expenses. Why should they be so heartless with their workers,” she asked.

Another big company reportedly asked their workers to take annual leave instead of reporting to work without customers. “At the start of this coronavirus issue and when our company felt maybe the issue will last for long, many of us were asked to take our annual leave. We agreed because we don’t have any option. Even if we are at the accommodation and doing nothing, the annual leave is in effect. We can no longer ask for another leave this year.

They told us to use the annual leave at home, because even if we want to go out, we cannot because all countries around the world are locked down,” a worker said. For workers in the public sector, the Civil Service Commission has promised to continue paying salaries for the duration of the holidays declared by the government.