July 27, 2008 / 4:43 PM / 9 years ago

Asian workers strike for better pay in Kuwait

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Hundreds of mainly Bangladeshi workers have gone on strike in Kuwait, seeking better pay amid soaring prices and sparking calls by deputies to improve working conditions for thousands of expatriates.

The state news agency KUNA said Kuwaiti officials met Bangladesh embassy officials on Sunday to discuss the workers’ problems. Residents said a strike by cleaning workers had started on Saturday.

Newspapers carried pictures of cleaners demonstrating against their living conditions, demanding a salary rise. “How can we survive on 8 dinars ($30.12) a month, and suffer mistreatment on top of that,” a worker told the Kuwait Times.

The paper quoted workers as saying they had been contracted for a monthly salary of 50 dinars, but were only being paid 20 dinars, from which their employers deducted 12 dinars every month for a visa residency charge.

Al-Watan newspaper carried a photograph of a labourer holding a list of demands which included raising salaries to 40 dinars a month and having a holiday every two years.

Labour Ministry inspectors are to meet workers’ representatives to review their demands, KUNA quoted Acting Assistant Undersecretary Hamad al-Medhadi as saying.

Newspapers said the cabinet would discuss a recent string of strikes by foreign workers at its weekly meeting on Monday, while parliament deputies demanded action.

“We agreed in parliament ... to identify the problems those workers suffer from and to know rights they have been denied,” Ali al-Omair, a member of parliament, told reporters.

Deputy Abdullah al-Roumi said he would present a draft law to scrap Kuwait’s sponsorship system, under which expatriates must be sponsored by a local employer to get a work permit.

Expatriates, comprised mainly of Asians and Arabs, account for around two thirds of Kuwait’s 3.2 million population.

Annual inflation hit 11.4 percent in April in the world’s seventh largest oil exporter as high housing and food costs continued to spur price rises.

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