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“Kuwait's Labor Ministry Deports Complaining Migrants,” resigned labor unionist says

On November 17, 2014 previously interviewed Mr. Abdulrahman al-Ghanim, former head of  the Kuwait Trade Union Federation's expat office, about his involvement in labor reform. Since our last interview al-Ghanim has resigned in condemnation of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs' mismanagement of labor disputes. al-Ghanim holds that the ministry, including the General Committee for Working forces, furthermore colludes with employers to cheat workers out of their rights. Below we speak with al-Ghanim about the reasons for his resignation. Why did you resign from the federation?

al-Ghanim: Simply because government bodies are uncooperative and arbitrary in their approach to migrant issues. They do not allow workers to sue employers for their rights. They deport everyone who was reported “absconding”, without granting them the right to appeal or to tell their side of the story.

What about the cases pending in courts?

There is a very small number of these cases. Their number is nothing compared to the number of those deported without having their cases reviewed. When there are cases that make it to court, they are not allowed to stay in the country until having their cases finalized. They get deported and their lawyers would follow up on their cases. The final result is not always good, but it would be already too late because the worker would have been already deported.

Did you enlist your reasons in your resignation?

Yes it details reasons with all necessary documents to support my claims which show how the ministry is corrupt. The ministry, especially the General Committee for Working Forces, takes the side of the employer shamelessly!

Can you give us an example?

One example is the case you've covered previously when the ministry told a group of workers working for al-Raed Security Company to give away their rights in exchange for a release to change employers. This offer was given to them despite the fact that their sponsorship cannot legally be transferred! provided the documents signed by the ministry to prove my claim.

Was your resignation approved? 

It was refused by the federation. They asked me to take it slowly and communicate with the ministry of labor and ministry of interior affairs to solve the problem and demand a better access to justice for victims of labor disputes in Kuwait.

Did you find any cooperation on the part of the ministries?

The labor minister decided to form a committee to monitor investigations and complaints in labor disputes, but this is not enough.

What would be the good solution in your opinion?

Simply, workers should be granted the right to go to court and not be deported until their cases are completely resolved. Workers should also be given a temporary working visa to work until their cases are solved, so they can live and support themselves especially that these cases take long time. Finally, lawyers should be hired by the state to defend these migrants because the costs of hiring attorneys are really high when compared to a worker's income.