Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Kuwait plans minimum

Kuwait plans minimum wage for foreign workersTuesday, September 20, 2005 / 7:31:24 PM KUWAIT CITY, Sept 19 (AFP) - Kuwait's minister of social affairs and labour Faisal al-Hajji has proposed the introduction of a minimum wage for hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers, a newspaper reported Monday.    Al-Qabas newspaper quoted Hajji as saying he has submitted recommendations to the cabinet calling for a 50-dinar (170-dollar) minimum monthly wage for foreigners hired by private companies involved in government contracts. He also proposed a 70-dinar (240-dollar) minimum wage for expatriates working as security guards for private companies. Monthly salaries of many expatriate menial workers, like cleaners, are as low as 70 dollars a month. Hajji said that after the recommendations are approved, no private company will be awarded a government contract before guaranteeing it will pay the minimum wage. More than 1.8 million foreigners live in Kuwait, which has a population of 2.8 million. About 900,000 work in the private sector, including about 60 percent from the Indian subcontinent. Kuwait also employs about 450,000 domestic workers, mostly from India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Asian workers have staged a series of strikes in recent months, claiming they had not been paid wages in several months. The government intervened and threatened action against employers if they did not pay. The US State Department in its annual "Trafficking in Persons Report" released in June criticised Kuwait and three other Gulf states for not doing enough to halt human trafficking and child labour. Washington has also stipulated improving labour conditions and amending the labour law as two of several conditions for starting free trade talks with Kuwait. Like other oil-rich Gulf states, foreigners working in Kuwait's private sector must have a "sponsor," a regulation which restricts their movement and puts them at the mercy of their employers. Officials have said Kuwait has been cooperating with the International Labour Organization for the past four years, and is considering ILO suggestions for changing the sponsor requirement. In June, the labour ministry prohibited employers from forcing labourers to work under the sun from noon to 4:00 pm during the summer months when the temperature reaches 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit). #

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