‘Chicken feet’ Filipino protesters to resume work today
Kuwait: Dozens of Filipino labor workers who went on strike two weeks ago over unpaid salaries are due to return to work today after intervention by the Philippines embassy.
The local employer has to send the unpaid salaries to their bank accounts no later than April 15. The management also promised to send their salaries on a monthly basis by no later than the 15th of every month.
Speaking with the Kuwait Times, Cesar Chavez, Philippine’s Labor AttachÈ to Kuwait said, the management of the local company headed by General Manager Engineer Emad Salama met with the embassy’s Philippine Overseas labor Office (POLO) together with four representatives from the protesters.
They agreed in front of the labor attache that the company will comply with the law and pay back salaries. “The complaints filed upon our office by more than 100 Filipino workers are not limited to delayed salaries and some unlawful salary deductions but also concerning their accommodations and facilities. They have no AC in Wafra accommodations and they have incomplete facilities such as bathrooms and kitchen. During our meeting we discussed all their concerns and the company said they are now fixing the facilities; it’s all recorded by us in the embassy so we are fully aware that everything we discussed about will be addressed by the company’s management. In exchange to the agreement, I already directed all the Filipino workers to resume their duties by today, or risk deduction if they didn’t show up,” Chavez pointed out.
The two-week protest of the workers will be paid as well. “We reiterated that the work stoppage of our workers is not a strike, they will not be considered as strike because they have stopped working because of the lack of food. How can these people perform duties and responsibilities if they have no food in their stomachs? They agreed to pay the two weeks too, but starting today all Pinoy workers must report to their job site,” he added.
Salary nonpayment As the Kuwait Times reported earlier last week, there are about 200 laborers, 100 of them from the Philippines, went on strike to protest against nonpayment of their salaries for three months. The men have been forced to beg for food and alms in order to survive after months of not being paid.
They have suffered from repeated periods of hunger, going days without enough food and in some cases, roaming around Khaitan or Farwaniya to ask for free chicken feet from any of the fresh chicken shops in order to survive.
Their conditions sparked what Filipinos call ‘bayanihan’ - meaning community, shared work and a spirit of cooperation. After the Kuwait Times report, the Philippine Embassy delivered the men some food and basic needs.
Then various Filipino community organizations also offered to help out even until today. “We are going back to work tomorrow,” conformed Marvin, who was acting as group’s spokesperson.
“They promised in front of our labor attachÈ that everything will be delivered according to what we have agreed upon. So we hope that everything will be okay. We have many thank to offer to people who helped us a lot especially Kuwait Times, and all the Filipino organizations who donated and offered food. We will never forget,” he beamed.
The Filipinos are employed as foremen, electricians, pipe fitters, plumbers, AC technicians and welders. Workers are paid between KD 120 to KD 300. Non-payment of salaries, along with ill treatment, harsh living conditions, and mistreatment are common complaints of migrant workers in Kuwait.
Labor strikes however are illegal and those striking can face jail time, fines or deportation.
Meanwhile dozens of Indian workers in the company, who stopped working together with the Filipinos, will not resume work. According to one Indian worker who spoke with the Kuwait Times on condition of anonymity, said that the 60-70 Indian workers are now willing to be deported if the company insists. “We are fed up with the promises of the company. We are about 100 Indian workers, but only 30 or 40 among us received the salary, the rest are not receiving any; so we are willing to be deported if the company does not provide the full amount (three-month salary) we are waiting,” he said.
By Ben Garcia
Source: Kuwait Times [Link]