4 – Systematic violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Kuwait

The ITUC affiliate in Kuwait is the Kuwait Trade Union Federation (KTUF).

In practice

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A domestic worker falls off the 7th floor while her employer films the scene and does not intervene to help her31-03-2017

Despite the introduction by the Kuwaiti legislator on 24 June 2015 of a new law theoretically recognizing workers’ enforceable labor rights, the right to form or join a union is still denied, workers keep being employed under the kafala system of visa sponsorship and abuses continue to occur in the Gulf country. Despite the fact that the recently approved law has banned the incredibly common practice of employers confiscating domestic workers’ passports, they still hold effective and exclusive control of their employees in light of the fact that under the kafala system domestic workers cannot change employer without the consent of their previous one. Under this system, domestic workers who leave their jobs before the end of their contract without their sponsor’s consent are considered to have “absconded,” a crime under Kuwaiti law. They can be arbitrarily detained, fined or sentenced to imprisonment.

In this respect, the situation of exploitation and denial of the most basic human and working rights of Kuwaiti domestic workers is more relevant than ever. On 31 March 2017, newspapers worldwide reported the case of an Ethiopian domestic worker who fell from the 7th floor and her employer filmed the whole scene without intervening to help. The Kuwaiti woman filmed as her house cleaner landed on a metal awning and survived, then posted the incident on social media and declared to police that the lady was attempting suicide. Nonetheless, the domestic worker survived the fall and declared, instead, that she was trying to save herself from the employer trying to kill her and that is why she fell out of the window. It is only one of numerous cases registered in the recent past. Another example occurred on 6 March 2017 when a couple was arrested for torturing their domestic worker, imprisoning her in their home and depriving her of food until she managed to escape and seek help, as occurs with hundreds of maids that every year escape their employers over abuse. This situation is so common that the Government has set up shelters for them while some seek help from their embassies.

Strike breaking tactics used24-05-2016

The Oil and Petrochemical Industries Workers Confederation (OPIWC), representing workers at state-owned oil, gas and petrochemical companies, began negotiations with the KPC and the acting oil minister to prevent the implementation of the Strategic Alternative Pay Scale. The union also sought the establishment of a joint committee to ensure full consultation over any changes to legislation, and assurances that the oil sector would be exempt from the Strategic Alternative bill.
Negotiations broke down however, and the oil workers’ unions announced they would go on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
from 17 April. The strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
affected five state-owned companies, the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), a subsidiary of KPC, Kuwait Oil Company, Kuwait Oil Tanker Company, Equate Petrochemical Industries Company and Kuwait Gulf Oil Company.
As promised the National Guard was brought in to “protect” the oil plants and ensure they kept functioning, and the KNPC appealed to Egypt and India to provide technical staff to keep production at its plants going during the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. Meanwhile the government asked the relevant authorities to take legal action against the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, which it considered illegal, and bring those involved to account.
The strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
was suspended after three days, when the OPIWC met the Prime Minister to ask for a mechanism to discuss the workers’ demands. A tripartite committee composed of the cabinet, the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) and the OPIWC was formed, negotiations with the unions on their demands were assured and guarantees were given that no striking workers would be sanctioned. Negotiations were successfully concluded on 24 May 2016 with a 7.5 per cent pay rise for oil workers.

No consultation with oil unions over new pay scales31-03-2016

The unions representing Kuwait’s oil workers were not consulted when a new pay scale was introduced. In the first quarter of 2016 the Government of Kuwait prepared a new draft law for public sector jobs called the Strategic Alternative Salary Scale. The law included measures to reduce government costs by “harmonising” pay. Oil workers are covered by separate labour legislation and should have been exempt from the new plan. The state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) decided however to unilaterally impose the new plan and issued new regulations without consultation with the unions. The new regulations entailed cuts in oil workers’ wages, and an end to longstanding benefits.
The oil workers’ unions urged the company and the government to withdraw the plan, and threatened to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
if it did not do so. The response of the KPC was to announce that it would continue with its ‘rationalisation’ programme including the reduction in salaries, benefits and other incentives to staff, and that it had a strategic plan ready to face any strikes. It said that the National Guard and oil facilities security staff would be used to run operations in the event of a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, specialist workers would be brought in from other countries, and striking employees would be penalised.

Migrant workers deported if they dare complain 01-11-2014

Migrant workers in Kuwait still do not have the right to form trade unions, and are vulnerable to appalling exploitation. In November 2014 Mr. Abdulrahman al-Ghanim, former head of the Kuwait Trade Union Federation’s expat office, explained in an interview that he had resigned in condemnation of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs’ consistent failure to deal fairly with labour disputes.

Government bodies do not allow workers to sue employers for their rights; he explained they simply deport everyone who was reported “absconding”, without granting them the right to appeal or to tell their side of the story. Very few cases make it to court, and the workers concerned are not allowed to stay in the country while their cases are being tried.

Intimidation of workers to stop strike28-02-2013

In February 2013, around 100 cleaning workers employed at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour’s social care homes staged a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
at the Social Care Compound in Ghernatah demanding an increase in their monthly pay from KD60 (160 EUR) to KD100 (260 EUR). Moreover, workers stated they were forced to pay KD100 for each annual leave request. The Bangladeshi embassy, at the request of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, visited workers individually and told them they could be deported for strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action. On the day of the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, management called police who broke up the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
by threatening workers.

Intimidation of workers24-05-2013

In May 2013, around 80 per cent of the workers employed at the Oil Sector Services Co, owned by Kuwait Petroleum Corporation participated in a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
led by the Kuwait, the Oil & Petrochemical Industries Workers Confederation. After exhausting all remedies of negotiating higher wages, more than 1,000 workers decided to take strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action. The company attempted to break the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
by sending individual letters to workers and threatening them with forced transfers, salary deductions and dismissal. Nevertheless, the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
continued for four days and management acceded to worker demands.

Restriction of fundamental civil liberties12-08-2013

Article 104 of the Labour Act prohibits unions from interfering in political, religious and sectarian issues. Ministry of Justice Workers Union Chairperson Ahmad Al-Mutairi warned that unions would engage in civil disobedience if the government went ahead with its plan to activate Article 104. Al-Mutairi warned that all public utilities would be disrupted if the government dissolved any union.

The Kuwait Trade Union Federation (KTUF) has called for national dialogue to address the growing crisis in the country between various segments of society. Political opposition has attempted to mobilise around the jailing of three former MPs for three years for insulting the Emir. Labour unions have rejected calls for demonstrations launched by the opposition.

Threats to terminate employment for participating in union activities31-03-2012

Threats to terminate workers for participating in union activities were made by the chief of the highest legislative body of the Kuwaiti Government. In March 2012, a senior state official, Al-Saraawi, head of the Religious Edict and Legislation Department, suggested that protesting workers from the Customs Department and Kuwait Airways be dismissed en masse for participating in a week long work stoppage. Al-Saraawi stated that the government may take disciplinary measures against workers whose strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
has a negative impact on the interests of the public. Abdurrahman Al-Sumait, Head of the National Union of Kuwait Workers and Employees, expressed his disappointment at the statements which violate international obligations signed by Kuwait.

Strikes occur despite restrictions – government bans strikes31-12-2011

Strikes are increasing despite being only officially allowed in the private sector, which is not organised, is very small and is mostly composed of some 1.7 million foreigners. 2011 saw an unprecedented wave of strikes and industrial action industrial action Any form of action taken by a group of workers, a union or an employer during an industrial dispute to gain concessions from the other party, e.g. a strike, go-slow or an overtime ban, or a lockout on the part of the employer. in the public sector, which employs close to 80% of the 360,000-strong workforce of Kuwaiti nationals after state oil sector workers managed to negotiate pay rises of up to 66% from the state. Since then, employees of several ministries and public sector institutions have lobbied for better salaries and benefits - customs officials, port workers, and staff at the Ministries of the Interior, Health and Social Affairs and Labour all started mass walkouts in protest against poor salaries and benefits. The strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action also affected the Kuwait airlines where 5,000 employees are facing a proposed privatisation process. Although the Kuwaiti employees were planning strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action, foreign employees were being advised to continue working as they are more vulnerable to being sacked without notice during a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
.

In September, around 850 Kuwaiti port workers began daily two hour strikes over wages, disrupting operations at three commercial ports. On 25 October the government agreed to raise wages following a short strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
organised by the 4,000-strong KAC Workers Union that grounded half of the airline’s fleet. In early October, workers from the Kuwait Stock Exchange called off a planned 19 October strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
after reaching an agreement with the government over money owed. The dispute centered on bonus payments and the impending transfer of employees from the bourse to a newly formed Capital Markets Authority (CMA). The Kuwait University’s academic society also planned a demonstration on 26 October over salary increases.

Government officials in Kuwait have repeatedly told striking workers they would not consider any demands while walkouts are taking place. In October, the government announced it was planning a new law which would punish striking civil servants and restrict strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action. In response to the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
wave on 17 October the Foreign Minister tendered his resignation, while at least one other Minister was believed to be considering resigning as well. On 19 December the Kuwait Trade Union Federation held a demonstration outside the Civil Service Ministry following a statement by Justice Minister Ahmed Al Mulaifi that strikes are prohibited and that international conventions which guarantee workers’ rights are not applicable to him. The statement was in response to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action being undertaken by employees in the Justice Ministry itself. The workers had also complained over pressure on non-qualified expatriates to work in the ministry instead of citizens as well as issues relating to retirement. Unionists from the Oil Workers’ Union and Kuwait Oil Tankers Workers’ Union also attended the protests to show solidarity.

Members protest over union directors19-09-2010

Some 200 employees of the Ministry of Communications held a demonstration on 19 September at the headquarters of the Union of Kuwait Government Sector Workers, calling for the dissolution of the board of directors of the union and an urgent general meeting to elect a new board. They complained the current board of directors had for many years taken over the union, deferring the appointment of new members. The workers criticised the board for poor reporting to members and for declining to register other ministry workers as members of the union. The current board of directors has also reportedly hindered workers from joining the union, and there have been no new members for seven years.

Bus drivers sacked during strike31-08-2010
Right to strike threatened for dockers01-05-2010

In March, in response to a threatened strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
by the Kuwait Ports Foundation Workers’ Union, the Kuwaiti Council of Ministers held an emergency meeting during which it decided to take legal action to prevent the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
from going ahead despite the union’s legal right to take action. The union, which represents 930 members employed by the state-owned Kuwait Ports Foundation, has attempted to enter into negotiations with managers for the past two years to discuss the fact that staff benefits and career development structures have not been reviewed since the 1970s.

Serious restrictions on organising30-11-2009

The single trade union system continues to exist. However, despite the trade union monopoly imposed by law, some trade unions exist outside the Kuwait Trade Union Federation (KTUF), such as the Bank Workers’ Union and the Kuwait Airways Workers’ Union. In practice, reports indicate that foreign workers have joined trade unions before they have worked in the country for the statutory five years. However, less than 5% of the unionised workforce is foreign. Migrant workers remain vulnerable to abuse and retribution if they protest poor working conditions.

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