Monday, February 09, 2009

Conditions bad for the labour class

Yesterday night after getting off work I went with my dad to meet a guy who he was supposed to meet urgently. I decided to wait in the car while he went for the meeting and that’s when the mood to write struck me.

Since I (certainly) knew that the mood would vanish in a few seconds, I pulled out a pen and small book and started to jot down what all came to my mind. I got into that deep mood of writing which I rarely get into and that’s when suddenly it was all disrupted.

All I remember was that I was busy writing and suddenly the whole vehicle was shaking and all… “I was like what the hell is going on?” and lifted up my head to look around. That’s when I saw that a van which was turning had come and hit our vehicle from behind. I was furious and ya it was a late reaction too anyway, but I did gesture to the guy asking what his bloody problem was and all that.

I put away all the writing materials and jumped out of the vehicle to check if there was any serious damage and gestured to him to wait as he was a typical Arab guy and I couldn’t communicate with him properly. I then called up dad and told him to come and deal with the situation and waited for him to come. Ya he did come and deal with the situation and told the guy to go as he dint think the damage was a big problem :P…. Anyway that’s not the point, that’s it the mood to write certainly had vanished in an instant!!!

Anyway, since I had jotted down a few things about what to write and all here goes the post:

Life is not easy and the global financial crisis has certainly not made things any better for anyone. Kuwait which certainly has been a safe haven for many is not so anymore. Many companies which thought that they wouldn’t be affected by the crisis have been hit hard. Anyway I really can’t tell that is the serious issue here.

The main issue is that – The driver who provides me with transportation to and from my office told me yesterday morning that he wouldn’t be able to pick me up after work in the evening as he and most other drivers (who work on a contract basis for the Ministry of Health) from his company had decided to forego work on that particular day which is one of the busiest days for them.

Now to understand about this situation, you do have to know the background details. This driver works for a particular company which supplies/provides all the hospitals in Kuwait which are under the Ministry of Health with cars along with the drivers. They also do provide vehicles with drivers to various other departments in the governmental sector on a contract basis (details unknown to me).

This company charges the government for the services provide and I really have to say that the government always pays the bills ON TIME. But the company has not been paying these drivers correctly and my driver told me that it’s been four months since he got his salary, hence the strike or decision to not work yesterday.

I was asking him about the details today and that’s when he told me that the government for example pays the company around 170 to 190 Kuwaiti dinars (KD) for the driver and the cars per month. But the company pays these drivers KD 40 per month if they are doing a single shift and if they work a double shift they are paid 70 KD. From this amount they have to pay their rent, buy food, send money home, and buy petrol for the car and so on.

I was quite shocked to hear that they had to pay for the petrol out of their own pocket as I felt that it’s unfair. (Ya I know that petrol is cheap here, but still it’s a problem for the labourers who get paid such a small amount per month.) He was also telling me that if the vehicle meets with an accident or if there is any repair work, he has to take it to the company garage where they always charge around KD 200 and this amount is accounted for by cutting from their salary every month.

I really cannot understand why people do such things. Yes the company does get its payment on time and it does make some profit, so why can’t they pay their workers the small amount? How will these people live without that small amount? Don’t they need food and water to survive? Ya life certainly is not fair, but still people should keep up the basic ethical and moral standards.

One thing I am really happy about is that the hospitals were able to understand the situation and when drivers’ didn’t turn up in any of the hospitals yesterday, they met with the company and asked for explanations and levied a fine. This resulted in the company asking the drivers to go back to work and promised that the salary would be paid by the end of this month.

Another problem that these drivers were facing was that most of their visas were getting over or were already over and the company had not renewed them even after the drivers made several payments for this. So the uncertainty of their job situations was the added reason for their protest and the company promised to get that also done within the week.

Well I do hope that all this will work out for the better rather than things getting out of control. I guess we have to wait and see how things go and what actions are taken…