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PAM approves compensation for distressed Indian workers
August 4, 2018, 2:55 pm
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The Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) in Kuwait has cleared an ex-gratia compensation payment of KD250 to each of the 710 Indian workers of Kharafi National Company who had filed complaints with PAM about non-payment of their salaries and other dues.

The total amount of KD177,500 to be paid as compensation would come from forfeiting the security-deposit made by Kharafi National Company with the Ministry of Social Affairs in lieu of their employee contracts.

Around 710 Indian workers who had filed complaints with PAM over the non-payment of their salaries and other dues would be eligible to receive this payment. The authorities have made clear that the amount of KD250 being paid to each of the complainants is to be considered as a ‘distress payment’ in order to provide some relief to the workers whose rights were grossly violated by their employer.

Even though the approval comes after months of delay and the concerned workers have already left the country, it is a welcome respite to the workers who had endured months of suffering and hardship as a result of the injustice meted out by the company. The compensation also provides a ray of hope to the thousands of other workers who languish in poor living conditions and remain illegal residents as the company has failed to renew their residences, while awaiting their salaries and other dues.

The Indian embassy, which has been vigorously following up on the issue of the workers with concerned authorities, confirmed that the PAM had intimated them on the compensation payment. The embassy clarified that the amount of KD177,500 being set aside to pay the 710 workers is purely a compensation payment and is not linked to the outstanding monies owed to the workers by the company. The salaries and other dues of the workers are still pending and is being pursued in local courts for final settlement.

The Indian embassy is currently coordinating between the workers and PAM officials to ensure the payments will be made in the next couple of weeks. Sources at the embassy also added that though the 710 workers had been repatriated at embassy expenses, it would not deduct any amount and that the ex-gratia payments would be paid in full to the workers.

It will be remembered that last year, over 3,600 Indian workers of Kharafi National Company were left stranded in their labor camps under unsanitary living conditions and without food or medical care for over six months, as the company could not pay the salaries of the workers.

Since early last year, the Indian embassy had been working with the company officials to find an amicable solution to the problem. Earlier this year, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh visited Kuwait and held talks with concerned authorities, including the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and the Minister of State for Economic Affairs, Hind Sabeeh Barak Al-Sabeeh, to solve the issue.

In recent months, Minister Al-Sabeeh along with ministry officials had been pursuing the payments with Kharafi National Company and on the modalities to liquidate the security-deposit made by the company. The ministry of social affairs and labor has been keen to ensure the rights of workers in the country following numerous complaints filed by workers against employers for failing to pay their salaries and other violations of their rights.

It is unfortunate that Kuwait’s designation as an ‘International Humanitarian Center’ by the United Nations, and the country’s reputation for compassion and humane acts around the world, is being tarnished by the acts of a few companies and people seeking to make a quick profit at the expense of their employees.

Exploitation of domestic workers, misuse of the sponsorship system, visa trading and repeated instances of non-payment of salaries to workers by some employers, including a few reputed large firms, have been widely described, closely examined and extensively discussed in local, regional and international circles. Unfortunately, when such human rights violations are reported in the media, it is usually the country that is blamed and not the individual companies or people involved in human trafficking.

It is inconceivable that Kuwait, which remains committed to upholding the lofty principles enshrined in international labor and migration treaties, should allow some companies and individuals to brazenly trample these venerable covenants. In this regard, it is worth pointing out that Kuwait has been working closely with International Labour Organisation (ILO) and has signed on to uphold and protect the rights of workers. Kuwait is also coordinating with other countries that have a large number of labor force to ensure their safety and wellbeing in the country.

Regrettably, labor rights have been wilfully infringed in the past, and will probably continue to be violated unless the authorities step in and take a decisive stand. The landmark decision by PAM to pay compensation by forfeiting security deposits of erring companies is being seen as a very positive step towards ensuring that the legal rights of workers in Kuwait are enforced, and that employers who violate the rights of their employees will be punished.

Staff Report

 

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