Al-Watan Daily: "Despite new regulations, laborers still working in high heat"

Dear Nancy, 

Please continue to work on investigative journalism on worker rights.  Too often, the most critical articles are allotted for the opinion section of the newspaper.  Investigative journalism is crucial for change, similiar to the muckrakers movement at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries.  The companies who violate regulations need to be MADE PUBLIC.

"Kuwait has recently issued a number of regulations that would partially protect the rights of almost two million expats workers in the country, especially workers who engage in jobs situated in the harsh atmosphere of Kuwait''s desert climate.

However, a number of workers have expressed their dismay to Al Watan Daily, saying that the State regulations do not deter their employers from incurring violations.

Lokman, a Bangladeshi laborer, told Al Watan Daily, "We work in the heat for long hours and we don''t even take a break. We work from seven a.m. to four p.m. in the heat, and when we complain they deduct from our salaries. Some of my friends have received sun burns from the heat and were taken to the hospital, and still nothing changes. The situation has not changed."
Ashraf, an engineer, told Al Watan Daily, "According to the laws in Kuwait, if the temperature reaches above 45 degrees Celsius workers have the right to not work outdoors, but in reality, if the temperature reaches more than 50 degrees Celsius, workers are still forced to work and many of them receive sun burns from the heat. The law also says that working hours should be from four a.m. until noon., but what actually happens is that the workers work for more than 10 hours a day, from six a.m. until four p.m., and sometimes they don''t even have a break in the middle to rest."

He added, "There are unfair people in Kuwait who are not sticking to the rules and regulations for labor, and they treat them (the workers) like animals."

Abdel Moheen, an Egyptian laborer, echoed the voices heard from a number of laborers facing these hardships.
"I work from early morning until late afternoon, and I am only paid 70 (Kuwaiti) dinars. This is not enough ـ I have to pay rent and pay for my food. They make us work for long hours in the heat and they don''t give us a break; we are suffering a lot and they are not providing us with helmets or anything that protects us from the heat. We need to get our rights and be treated like human beings. We have to work in the shade, or if this continues, we will surely die."

A South Asian worker recounted an incident involving a former coـworker who was working in construction for a new building and, due to the immense heat, fainted and fell to his death.

"I was working with my friend when the temperature was almost 55 degrees Celsius, and I could see that he was dizzy from the heat. I called our supervisor and told him, but he didn''t care, and made my friend continue his work. After half an hour my friend fainted and fell from the fifth floor of the building we were working on and died. This was a big problem and we all stopped working in protest, but nothing was done to solve this and we were forced back to work."

"Labor companies in Kuwait must stick to the rules of the country and give the workers their rights, because the laborers are human beings and shouldn''t be treated like slaves. These companies must work within the allocated legal hours. The workers must be properly paid and they must be saved from the heat and given protection by wearing helmets and talking their breaks on time," said an unnamed worker employed by a prestigious construction company." (for link, click here)

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