15 hurt, 60 arrested in Kuwaiti police action | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 30, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 30, 2008

Bangladesh Workers Agitate Over Poor Pay

15 hurt, 60 arrested in Kuwaiti police action

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At least 15 Bangladeshi workers were injured while 60 others were arrested as Kuwait police dispersed the workers protesting against low wages, bad working conditions and other exploitations by cleaning companies in Kuwait on Monday.
Kuwait's Cabinet Minister Faisal Al-Hajji, meanwhile, said the workers had agreed to return to work after the government said it would ensure their rights and warned that "anyone participating in riots would be deported", the Kuwait Times reported yesterday.
The Arab Times reported that several Kuwaiti MPs slammed a lack of government's control over cleaning service companies that have been defaulting on payment of workers' salaries.
After a cabinet meeting Commerce and Industry Minister Ahmad Baqer said, "If any injustice happened to the workers, they should go to the relevant authorities, the Ministry of Social Affairs and labour courts. I have no doubts that they will get their rights."
More than 500 Asian cleaners and workers staged street demonstrations on Monday until police dispersed them in the evening by using tear gas and batons and arrested several workers in Mabhoula and Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh areas.
The Arab Times reported quoting workers that in Mabhoula six cleaners' representatives were beaten up by a large number of workers for allegedly colluding with their respective companies, thereby harming their interests.
The workers said four representatives were assaulted at a camp in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and many workers' representatives had gone into hiding to avoid their colleagues' wrath.
The representatives had reportedly gone to inform the workers that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour had accepted their demands and that they should call off their strike.
"Some workers taunted them saying they had been bribed by the company to misguide them and this led to heated exchanges before a large number of cleaners turned their fury on them," said a worker.
According to the cleaners, many of their colleagues are in no mood to relent and want the ministry officials to visit every single camp and give them in writing that all their demands will be fulfilled.
An official of Bangladesh Embassy in Kuwait said only workers of four companies were involved in the unrest and that cleaners of most companies had returned to work after the ministry resolved their grievances on Sunday.
Workers were promised of 40 Kuwaiti Dinar (KD) a month but were paid only KD18. The companies also used to deduct health and residency fees from that salary and did not allow weekly holiday or two-yearly vacations. The working conditions were also precarious, he said quoting the workers.
There are some 2,40,000 Bangladeshis in Kuwait.
Criticising the government's lack of control over the cleaning companies, several Kuwaiti MPs said instead of looking for solutions to end the strikes, the government has started looking at possibilities of recruiting labourers from other Asian countries, except Bangladeshis or Pakistanis as they are known to have records of resorting to violence.
MP Saleh Ashoor held the government entirely responsible for the violence that sparked through the recent labour unrest. He said it is the government that is in charge of executing contracts and granting tenders to companies and hence should have exercised effective supervisory control over their functioning.
Ashoor said demands put forth by the striking labourers were completely legal and entirely humane. He also slammed the employers' inhumane practice of retaining the employees' bankcards and paying them far less than what they were contracted for.
MP Ali Al-Amair expressed unhappiness with the current status of Asian workers in Kuwait, saying they have more than once demanded less than their full rights.

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