KUWAITI KALEIDESCOPE: May Day 2008, Elections, and other Insights
By Kevin Anthony Stoda, notes from Kuwait
As dockworkers in both the USA and in Iraq struck for a few hours on May1 against the ongoing Iraq War, Kuwaiti witnessed May Day demonstrations, too. However, these strikes for workers' rights in Kuwait were carried out by foreign laborers in a land that has been rife in non-payments to thousands of laborers-i.e. laborers who keep the city clean, help run families of wealthy Kuwaitis, and keep their businesses running every day.
The May 2, 2008 FRIDAY TIMES front page story and headline focused on the unfair treatment and lack of pay for hundreds of Bangladeshi cleaners, who have not been paid for many months. Meanwhile, their contractor and the Kuwait government ministries have allowed hundreds of these laborers to find that their expired visas and Civil I.Ds have been expired since 2008. This situation puts them all in jeopardy of arrest. Nonetheless, these laborers chose May Day to once again protest publicly.
These (mostly female) cleaners had protested earlier in the week, too, in front of the Ministry of Education, and that ministry had paid their firm immediately the back-pay through March 2008.
Having still not received that pay from their contractors, these Bangladeshi protesters on May 1 once again peacefully protested and held a sit in at the entrance to the Kuwait Society of Human Rights (KSHR).
Journalist Naware Fattahova notes, "Laborers in Kuwait, however, have limited rights and often face difficulty in ensuring their salaries are paid on time and their residencies kept current."
She adds, "The Bangledeshi workers, for instance, work from 4:30am to 2:00pm, and they receive KD 19 [appx. US$73] per month. A few work from 4:30am up to midnight, and receive KD 30 [appx. US$110] per month, earning about 700 fils [about $2.35] per day."