5,000 Bangladeshi workers go on strike in Kuwait
Around 5,000 Bangladeshi workers went on an indefinite strike in Kuwait City yesterday protesting underpayment and irregular wages, and not getting other facilities promised by the Kuwaiti company they work for.
"The workers staged a peaceful sit-in Sunday morning but today (Monday) they are staging strike at their barracks saying that they will not join work until their company fulfils their demands," said Shahriar Kader Siddiky, labour counsellor of Bangladesh embassy in Kuwait, when contacted yesterday.
The workers are placed by the company at royal palaces, hospitals, universities, oil companies and other important establishments under the ministries of education, health, oil and defence.
The company pays them only 18 Kuwaiti dinars (1 dinar is equivalent to Tk 258) a month instead of 50 dinars they were promised, the counsellor quoted workers as saying.
Kuwaiti newspaper Arab Times in a report yesterday said one of the workers alleged that the company has not paid two months' wages to a number of workers, and is not giving them weekly holiday.
Some of them are even forced to work 16 hours a day without any payment for overtime work, he said.
Another worker said the manager of the company beat up some workers for no reasons, and deducts five dinars per day if any worker fails to turn up for work due to illness.
He alleged that the company is compelling them to buy plane tickets from a certain travel agency, which charges exorbitant fares, the Arab Times reported.
“We want the company to pay our wages through bank, besides paying us for overtime. Most of the workers are falling sick because of the long hours of work. The company is also not allowing us to take sick leave. How can we work under such an environment?” the worker posed a question.
The labour counsellor said many of the workers alleged that they couldn't go on leave over the last 8 to 10 years as the company did not allow this. Even if a worker is granted leave for returning home, the company charges 30 dinars from him as security money for getting the passport deposited with it. But they never get back the money when he joins work again, he said quoting workers.
Quoting workers, he said the company even deducts money from their wages for renewing residency permits and insurance, and does not provide them service benefits on expiry of their job contracts.
"I asked workers to show us job contracts they signed. But until today, (Monday) they did not do so," Shahriar said. He however said it is unfortunate that many workers are forced to sign job contracts that are different from those signed before their coming to Kuwait.
The labour counsellor told The Daily star said that they had a meeting with the company officials on Sunday. The officials said they would increase wages to 40 dinars a month for those working under the ministries of health and defence.
"The company has already paid increased wages to some workers (who are among the strikers) and a few of them have also joined work. But others demand wage hike for all of them," Shahriar said.
Around two lakh Bangladeshis work in Kuwait, the third largest importer of manpower from Bangladesh, next to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
The country however stopped hiring workers from Bangladesh late in 2006, saying Bangladeshis were engaged in crimes.