Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Requiring New Contracts

This is from today’s Al Watan, and is pertinent to the labor issues we have been discussing on Here, There and Everywhere. Bad surprises happen from top to bottom.

This applies to everyone – the contract you think you are signing when you come to Kuwait may not be what really happens. It depends a lot on the company, on how you are recruited, etc. For example, if you are recruited by a US company doing business with the government here, things are fairly straight-forward. Read your contract carefully before you sign. If you are recruited by one of the manpower agencies – be very very very careful.

Expat workers protest job contract fraud
Ricky Laxa
Staff Writer

KUWAIT: Embassies in Kuwait have been receiving many complaints from expatriate workers of being forced by employers to sign new job contracts with salaries that are far lesser than what they had initially agreed upon back in their countries before arriving in Kuwait. A number of Filipino workers, who recently arrived in Kuwait, have resorted to the Philippines Overseas Labor Office to file complaints against the agency that was responsible for their employment in Kuwait.

In an exclusive interview with Al Watan Daily on Thursday the complainants provided copies of contracts and other documents, which have been signed by the employer and the employees in the Philippines, in addition to another set of contracts, which indicate that their salaries have been reduced by more than half with totally different job descriptions.

A complainant said she has been asked to settle the amount of 40,000 Philippine pesos (335 Kuwaiti dinars) as placement fees. This amount does not include other expenses like medical checkـup, health insurance and other expenses. She added that most of the fees have been overpriced on receipts that are handwritten on ordinary sheets of paper “The receipts issued are not official ones as required by the Philippines” government, and the concerned authorities have ignored their malpractices,” she said. An embassy official indicated that most of these placement agencies are registered under Filipino representatives, who are usually the owners” wives, girlfriends or Filipino nationals who had previously worked in Kuwait and these are the people who make the manipulation of contracts an easy task.

Al Watan Daily managed to acquire some original copies of the contracts, which have been signed by the employers and the employees. In one of the job contracts, a salary of KD 200 has been signed by both parties with the job description cited as ”Receptionist” and in another contract bearing the same name the salary has been slashed to KD 100 with the job description cited as “Cashier.”

“Two hours prior to our departure, we were asked to sign letters of undertaking stating that we have agreed to the alterations on the contracts. We refused to sign the new contract s yet for some of us, we had no choice but to agree to the amount,” added another complainant.

Al Watan Daily spoke to the agency”s representative who was asked by the Philippines labor official to meet the complainants and resolve the cases. The representative initially denied the allegations but fearing being exposed she admitted to the change in contracts.
She stated that the employer called a few hours before the scheduled flights and she was told to reduce the salaries under the pretext of the global economic crisis, which the labor official ignored and dismissed.

Al Watan Daily also found out that the license of the said agency to recruit workers from the Philippines has been suspended for unknown reasons. “Our company is employing fifty medical staff at the end of the month and we have signed agreements with other big companies,” said the representative.

A settlement has been reached between the complainants and the employer in the presence of the labor official on Thursday and some of the complainants have agreed to accept KD 150 instead of KD 200. Other workers opted to be repatriated without a refund of the placement fees that were paid to the Philippine agency.

“How many more agencies such as this will continue to mislead and cheat overseas workers? Agencies are literally taking undue advantage of the poor situation that these people are faced with back in their countries. Most of them leave their countries after paying huge amounts just to be able to finance the requirements needed to work abroad. These agencies should not be allowed to recruit locally and internationally. Strict legal measures must be taken against those who violate the terms and conditions drawn in the original contracts,” stressed an embassy official.

Informed sources also told Al Watan Daily that an alarming number of Western nationals also experience similar situations. In a lecture concerning employees and employers” rights that was held recently by a local organization, a relatively large number of Western nationals raised questions on the alteration of articles drafted in contracts.

“My contract stipulates specified allowances for house rent and education fees for my children. I agreed to sign the contract and came to Kuwait with my family only to find out that education fees for my children will not be provided,” complained a British national who attended the lecture.

He also said that school fees allowance is an important factor, which made him agree to sign the contract knowing that the salary he agreed on will not be sufficient to finance the education of his children. The company eventually agreed to provide half of the amount.
Meanwhile, an American teacher complained that the accommodation provided by the school is being relocated to a remote area and that traveling between the two places is very time consuming. She was also said that she would be given her own flat only to find out that she would have to share with another teacher.

“These conditions were not mentioned in the contract and we were informed that the situation is temporary but it has been a year since. I am definitely not renewing my contract,” stressed the teacher. Similarly, a South American manager of a spa complained about extra working hours being imposed on her, in addition to a 24ـhour onـcall policy. Her contract clearly stipulates nine working hours and a day off per week. During an orientation, she was handed over a company handbook, which defines her job functions. Rules require her to manage the spa and administer treatments as well. She recently resigned from work.

When you read articles like these, you can understand how some employer/employee relationships are doomed from the start. A family asks an agency for a maid, and when she arrives, having been told she will earn far less than she expected, she will not be a receptionist or a cashier, but a housecleaner / cook / nanny, and her working conditions are not covered nor guaranteed by labor law, she shows up sullen and angry. The family, expecting someone who is happy to be earning a good salary, (and who often paid those fees that the maid is also being charged for) are dismayed at this ill-tempered and sullen employee, and the employee is resentful and depressed at being tricked and in servitude. It’s not a great start for a good relationship.

The same is true for higher level professional positions. Once hired, some employers here seem to think that the employee is a human resource – on call. It’s like they think the contract implies some kind of ownership. When people complain, salaries are late, conditions worsen and the employee is STUCK. Worst case, you have a travel ban placed against you and you can’t even get out of Kuwait.

About 85 – 90% of the population of Kuwait is from somewhere else. You have few rights. This is a true story – a western employee driving on a ring road – a fast road – hit a man who ran across the road. The western employee had to go to jail while they waited to find out if the man hit would survive. The man survived, and was discovered to be here in Kuwait illegally, and was deported. The western man was allowed out of jail, but when his contract ended, could not leave the country because a travel ban was posted against him. He could not be brought to trial because the witness against him – the man who had run in front of his car – could not be found. He could not be found because he had been deported. It took forever for this poor man to leave Kuwait, and it was pressure brought by the newspapers publishing his story that finally got the case . . . resolved? dropped? There is no explanation. Maybe someone had to cross an official’s palm, who knows?

It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are from, it doesn’t matter if you are a maid, a cashier, a waiter, an accountant, a teacher, a consultant; if you are an expat worker, the law and the enforcement of the law, at the current time in Kuwait, is not your friend.

March 13, 2009 - Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions | , , ,

11 Comments »

  1. Intlxpatr ,

    After the liberation of kuwait and for some years afterwards we had many problems running the country and everything was blamed on the Invasion .

    it seems that the world has found another reason to blame its misery on” THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISES ” , think of that next time your tabouleh comes late or tastes different or the Peta bread is smaller .

    Have a great Brunch , BTW Adventure Man has been quiet these days ?? whats up with him

    Comment by daggero | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  2. LOL, Daggero, you are SO right! Everything is blamed on the great global economic crisis. AdventureMan sends his greetings 😉

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  3. Been following Daggero for a while – sounds like someone with a nice edge, a touch of cynicism, smarts and a mock sensibility – I wonder if he writes or blogs? If he doesn’t maybe he should.

    Comment by hilaliya | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  4. Oh wow Amer , you have been following me , Gosh i didn’t think you cared *Blushing *

    i have checked on you too and If i were a kuwaiti chick i would have married you great guy you without second thoughts ,although i hail from a very conservative family and you are a liberal so and so .
    أتغشمر يامعود . (Joking Buddy)

    But seriously thanks for the comment , coming from a media guy like you it is much appreciated .

    Really i thought about having my own Blog but it is a lot of work and commitment , and i type with two fingers so i settled for commenting on the Blogs of generous people like our host Intlxpatr .God Bless Her.

    But again Being the kuwaiti person that i am , maybe i will hire a foreigner to run the blog for me ,heyyyy that sounds good ,and if anything goes wrong or if there is abuse of the blog i just blame it on him /her and report it to the authorities and they’ll take of it.
    He / she will be just another sad statistic.

    i’d better run for cover now

    Comment by daggero | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  5. My political sensibilities are liberal but on a personal level – I am – as us Kuwaitis say “Muhafith”!!

    You don’t have to write essays everyday – just put 1 paragraph a day like that last one about ‘hiring foreigners to blog for you’ – I smell a hit, 15,000 hits a day!

    Comment by hilaliya | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  6. Amer, Daggero is SO funny that at first when he was commenting, I thought it might be my husband, pretending to be someone else. I hope Daggero and AdventueMan never meet. The two of them would be going on for hours.

    LLLLOOOOLLLL, Daggero, hiring a foreigner to run your blog, LLOOLLLLL!

    Daggero, why don’t you write a guest column now and then for Amer/Hilaliya? I wonder if you two already know each other?

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  7. Wow, all this is really scary!

    Expat 21

    Comment by expat21 | March 14, 2009 | Reply

  8. If Daggero doesn’t want the hassle of running a blog, then he can do occasional pieces for http://www.hilaliya.com, sure I’d publish them.

    Comment by hilaliya | March 14, 2009 | Reply

  9. Sometimes Daggero can be a little sharp-tongued, sometimes he is playful, but every now and then he writes a lengthy comment that knocks my socks off and is worth a blog entry.

    He wrote about the farms in the Mangaf area, even a song people used to sing, you know me, I love that stuff. He gives me good Arabic phrases, sayings and their history, and gave me helpful things to say when I call the police because there has been (yet another) accident in front of our place. He COULD write a really good article, perfect for the Kuwaiti Diwaniyya, if only he wants to. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 14, 2009 | Reply

  10. Intlxpatr And Amer ,

    thanks for kind words ,and the invitation to guest write on hilaliya Blog. I hope i can write something worthwhile once i get an Idea .Where Do i submit the piece ?

    Comment by daggero | March 14, 2009 | Reply

  11. Daggero go to my blog and check ‘contact’ – my email is in there – and send me your piece and ill make you an account so you can blog as well.

    Length is not important, can be one paragraph, can be an essay – doesn’t matter. Doesn’t have to be political, can be an observation about something, a review – whatever, but we want that Daggero ‘bite’ to come through.

    Comment by hilaliya | March 14, 2009 | Reply


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