Maid recruitment agencies slam new Kuwait labor law
Kuwait: The owners of local employment and recruitment agencies held a press conference on Sunday at the Hyatt Hotel to protest at the problems they will face under the recently passed private sector labor law. Under the new legislation, a state-owned company will assume responsibility for recruiting foreign staff, replacing the existing private sector agencies.
Our aim in holding this conference today is to publicize the suffering of the owners of domestic staff recruitment agencies," said Abdulaziz Al-Ali, the former head of the Union of Domestic Staff Recruitment Agencies. "The other issue to be discussed today is the establishment of a shareholding company that will assume the recruitment duties currently performed by private sector employment agencies.
Ali-Ali criticized the establishment of the state-owned recruitment body, saying, "The purpose for establishing this company is to remove the name of Kuwait from the blacklist and preserve the rights of domestic staff, including their rights to food, accommodation, health insurance and return tickets." The existence of this body will "compel private sector domestic staff recruitment agencies to increase the cost of recruiting maids by opening training centers for maids in their home countries to teach them about Kuwaiti society and traditions.
Six branches of the state-owned company will be opened, one in each of Kuwait’s governorates, with the cost of insurance rising from KD 5,000 to KD 20,000 in order to break the monopoly of private sector recruitment agencies, obliging the agencies to offer apartments with full facilities, reduce sponsorship periods from six months to 100 days, coordinate with the embassies to eliminate the phenomenon of maids running away from their employers, and bring competition under control.
Al-Ali also complained about what he said was a smear campaign waged by the Ministry of Interior against private sector domestic staff recruitment agencies, which he said had helped to tarnish the country’s reputation with human rights bodies. He further condemned the new regulation that maids must be provided with uniforms, saying that this is in itself a violation of their human rights and contrary to human rights organizations’ guidelines.
Assad Al-Derbas, the owner of one local domestic staff recruitment agency, condemned the new legislation, saying, "The aim of today’s gathering is to clarify the true picture on the issue of human rights violations which Kuwait was accused of. The solution to this problem is very simple in our opinion. We are not responsible for this issue, as the facts show; we are the owners of these offices and this is the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor’s problem.
The establishment of the state-owned domestic staff recruitment agency will simply increase the magnitude of the problems in this area, Al-Debras insisted, since the new body will have a monopoly, leading to sponsorship cost increases for the employers of domestic staff, which could reach as high as KD 1,000 per maid.
Another domestic staff recruitment agency owner present at Sunday’s press conference, Khalid Al-Qallaf, said that the problems surrounding the employment of maids are based in the lack of regulations covering these staff and the non-existence of any comprehensive legislation on employing domestic staff. Because of this, he claimed, some sponsors violate their maids’ rights, with a number failing to pay their maids any salary at all before sending them back to their home countries. Al-Qallaf was also critic al of the media, saying that it had focused on the negative aspects of domestic workers’ employment in Kuwait, which had tarnished Kuwait’s reputation abroad.
Rawan Khalid, Staff Writer