The ongoing discussion of the new private sector “labor law” needs to use as its legitimate background the ideals, principles of international labor law, and not the “special” requirements of special interests! In other words, it is incomprehensible while preparing the new labor law to ask for the “consultations and deliberations” of huge corporations, companies and private capital in this matter, as recently reported in the Arab Times (Aug 15, 2009). In matters relating to the basic rights of workers in Kuwait, only the International Labor Organization should be consulted. Doing otherwise goes against all positive expectations in this regard.
In all probability, consulting only business interests about how to amend, change, or regulate labor activities in the country will certainly produce “well-suited” results compatible with what is useful to the businesses which does not have to correspond to the interest of the worker. Therefore, applying and putting into practice the new labor law must be consistent with international labor standards (ILS), regulations, adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO). As such, comparing or contrasting our economy with other regional economies while we prepare to launch the new law ignores particular international labor standards, which might not be quite popular in other regional economies. Explicitly adopting international work standards, regulations, and rules will open our country to foreign investment.
The current discussion in Kuwait about the nature, regulations, and procedures of the new labor law has to abide by what (ILO) distinguishes as “decent work.” International investment houses, international companies, and global corporations usually test their potential investment territories according to international standards. Doing, otherwise, such companies might face penalties in their home countries. In addition, not applying international standards, while regulating labor activities, exposes any business to international condemnation by labor organizations around the world. In fact, the strategic planning divisions in some international corporations need to highlight their corporation’s compliance with international labor standards, or else they will lose ground to other competitors.
The discussion of the new labor law in Kuwait should focus on maintaining the rights, dignities, and well-being of expatriate workers.
In addition, the current discussion should involve issues pertaining to whether employers in Kuwait, individuals and companies, are abiding by the international labor standards. Such comprehensive understanding of the new labor law will enhance Kuwait’s image in the international arena and will certainly invite more foreign investment. Otherwise, postponing the implementation of the new labor law for the sake of privileged interests will never solve our economic problems.
The International Labor Organization has already in place monitoring committees, which will see through the application of the ILO’s members of labor conventions and recommendations. We in Kuwait have no other choice but to honor such conventions, labor standards, and recommendations.
By Khaled Aljenfawi