A GROUP of Zimbabweans employed by a Singaporean company to work in Kuwait has been left stranded after the company dumped them without paying them their salaries.
The workers were employed in 2018 by Explomo Technical Services as de-mining experts but were later abandoned by their employer at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The employees said their company, Explomo Technical Services, was contracted for the UXO de-mining programme Phase -1 for the North and South Kuwait oilfields.
“When we came here in 2018, we received our salaries as usual and the working conditions were average but since the beginning of the COVID-19 (pandemic), the chief finance officer and other senior managers left for Singapore,” said a Zimbabwean who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The employees said since March this year, the company is yet to pay them their salaries, with the situation having since gone bad after the COVID-19 pandemic set in.
“We have not been paid our December 2019 salaries and to make matters worse, our company abandoned us at a camp in Kuwait in March. The management left for Singapore and never came back,” he added.
According to the Zimbabweans in Kuwait, the company has been forcing them to go back home since June despite not having paid them their salaries.
The deserted employees include 21 Zimbabweans, 29 Mozambicans, and 75 other nationals.
The Zimbabwean workers have since appealed to the Kuwait government and Zimbabwean embassy but are yet to receive tangible help.
“On June 24, we staged a demonstration after we had tried to contact the authorities without success due to the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
“The neighbourhood we reside in was under isolation; this was after our employer had forced us to go back to our home countries without payment of our salaries,” the employee told Zim Morning Post.
A letter seen by this publication indicates that the Kuwait Ministry of Labour ordered the contractor to pay the employees their outstanding salaries but to date, nothing has been done to address the issue.
“The Kuwait Ministry of Labour responded by compelling the Kuwaiti sponsor of our project to agree to pay the salaries owed to us and to do so within two weeks, but this has not happened and it has been more than a month since the sponsor (Sudan Regional Trading & Contracting Company) agreed to pay our salaries,“ read a letter send to the Zimbabwean embassy to Kuwait.
The employees have since lost their accommodation and are facing eviction from the compound they were staying after the Singaporean employer failed to meet rental payments at a compound they are staying.
“Currently, the owner of the building has served us with an eviction notice dated July 29 due to the five months of unpaid rentals.
“We pleaded with him that we had nowhere to go, and he gave us a five-day grace period, which is ending tomorrow, to find alternative accommodation or to vacate the building, of which we cannot do since it is our employer’s responsibility as per our contract.
“We are also financially incapacitated due to unpaid salaries,” read the letter to the Zimbabwean embassy in Kuwait.
The workers are now appealing to the Government of Zimbabwe to assist then as they allege to be currently surviving on handouts from well-wishers.
“Many times, we are surviving from food and toiletries given to us by well-wishers.
“Our catering company is now struggling to provide us with three square meals a day and some days we totally skip meals,” the letter added.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the employees are now scared of their lives since no one is there to ensure that they are safe in terms of health.
“Three days ago, one of our workmates passed away. Now, the situation is too scary as some of the guys are sick since we are not getting support from our employer,” the employee told Zim Morning Post.