Subcontracted nurses share grievances, appeal to Indian Embassy
KUWAIT: The ongoing conflict between a group of nurses at Mubarak Al Kabeer Hospital and their sub-contracting company was further strained Tuesday when the company allegedly threatened to fire nurses on leave if their colleagues don’t agree to do double-duty in their stead. The nurses were sharing their grievances with the Arab Times Tuesday following the threat by the company.
Explaining the situation, the nurses said their company is supposed to provide replacement staff for nurses who go on leave according to its contract with the ministry.
“However, due to the gross violation of human rights by the company many nurses have resigned from work, and the company is short on staff. We are now being forced to do double-duty.”
Further, the nurses complained that they are paid a paltry KD 7 for the extra day’s work, while they are entitled to no less than KD 15. “The company not only stints on our pay, but also delays the payment by up to 9 months.”
The delay has now been reduced to 3 months and the payment increased to KD 9 following a long protest by the nurses, who also took the issue to the Indian Embassy and managed to gain some media attention.
“Yet, our grievances have not been fully addressed, and we are not willing to do this kind of hard labor for the pittance they are paying us.
“Moreover, double-duty involves 16 hours of continuous work, which is taking a toll on our health.”
Some of the wards in which these nurses work demand continuous physical labor and mental concentration as some of the medicines and their dosages are very critical to the life of patients.
“Forcing to work in this fashion is also risky to the life of patients.”
Nurses who are pregnant and who are lactating mothers find it extremely stressful to work under such conditions, they complained.
“We are in fact protesting not for the sake of pay, but we simply want to be relieved of this inhuman forced labor.
“Earlier the company had threatened to cut the pay of nurses who went on leave if their colleagues refused to do double-duty to replace them. On Tuesday, it has come up with a new ploy to increase pressure on us with threats of termination.”
These are a group of nurses who were recruited by the subcontracting company in 2009 from India. Around 300 nurses, both male and female, were brought to Kuwait for a salary contract of KD 300.
“Though we are qualified nurses with BSc degrees, we are paid far less than ministry nurses with similar qualification. The average salary for a nurse in the ministry is KD 700 to KD 800.”
The nurses further accused the company of extorting money out of them by making them sign a consent agreement to pay the company KD 500. “So, for the first five months we had to give a part of our salaries to the company to fulfill this obligation that we were tricked into.
“Our company is also very lax in renewing our visas, and a couple of times a few nurses have been arrested for residence violation. We had to go on a strike to make our company stamp their visas and secure their release from jails.”
The company, in contravention of Kuwaiti labor law, keeps the certificates and passports of the nurses. “We fear for our documents and it emboldens the company to dictate terms to us.
“The company demands KD 2,000 for our release, which is the only way we can get back our certificates and passports.”
The nurses appealed to the Indian Embassy to show more interest in their case and help them find a solution to their problems.
By: Valiya S. Sajjad Arab Times Staff