Around 200 laborers, 100 of them Filipinos, stopped work to protest nonpayment of salary. The laborers were employed by a local construction company subcontracted to various government projects in Kuwait. The workers have not been paid for three months. “We are not receiving our salary for months so we are hungry, we need food to eat,” said Dindo, one of about 100 Pinoy workers who are on-strike to protest for nonpayment of salary.
During the past few weeks, the workers say they survived with the help of friends and most of the time they roam around Khaitan and Farwaniya looking for fresh chicken shops to ask for free chicken feet. “We ask shops to give the chicken feet so we can survive and have something to eat,” said Marvin, 49, who is a foreman at the company. “It’s really hard to live like this. But we have to survive; we just cook it in various ways, but all same, chicken feet. We also beg some Filipinos outside to give us some food. Thank God they understand us, there are Filipino groups helping, but we are not eating every day, they are giving us food but not enough,” said Marvin.
The workers have filed a complaint with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor but so far no decision has been taken. “The problem now is that we have been working without salary for months. We already complained against the company. Today, we went to the embassy, and the embassy representative called the company to ask about our predicament; the embassy advised us to go back to work because they might accuse us of abandoning work, but how can we continue working without food? That is what we told the embassy. I am going to meet my Filipino colleagues today, and I will ask them if they wish to go back to work or not. As for me, I just need the salary to send to my family. They are hungry too, they need food also if they don’t want me to work after they pay us, I’ll go back home, but they need to pay my compensation,” added Marvin. “They did this to us one time last year but we stopped (working) and the company addressed our salary issues immediately. Now, we are hopeless because the company is not cooperating anymore; we are in limbo,” he added.
The Filipinos are employed as foreman, electrician, plumber, ducting, AC technician and plumbers. Workers are paid between KD 120 to KD 220. “The problem is that even the company fails to provide us with the materials needed for the construction, they are asking for the progress in the project but most of the materials needed in the construction site are incomplete,” he said.
As for their demands, Marvin told a local daily that they want to be paid every month as per the law. “If they want us to go back to work, they need to provide us with the regular salary. We should receive the salary on a monthly basis. If they want us to leave, they should provide us with the full compensation. We had loans back home too, and we want to fulfill our obligations,” he said. The company was contacted for this story but refused to comment. Nonpayment of salaries, along with ill treatment, harsh living conditions and other mistreatment are common complaints of migrant workers in Kuwait. Labor strikes, however are illegal and those striking can face jail time, fines and deportation.