The Kurdish Globe
Aree Latif, a 20 years old worker, looked very tired as he was busy with organizing heavy carpets in a store in Erbil.
"I had taken leave for a few days to do a surgery, but I came back to work couple of days later," Aree latif said. "I am now afraid that my boss would cut part of my salary at the end of the month."
Latif was telling his story as he told the Globe that his employer has not paid him a penny for the surgery.
Latif has started working in the carpet store with four more workers two years ago.
His initial salary was 350 USD per month, and after two years he is now getting 400 USD.
The 400 USD is his complete compensation package from the employer for 11 continuous hours of work per day and six days per week.
Due to the shortage in the inspection teams of the social security directorate, until now not all the companies working in Kurdistan have been registered with the directorate to pay the social security contributions for their local staff.
A large number of workers in the private sector including Latif are not aware of their rights guaranteed by the labor law, and a social security official argues that the employers should be interrogated.
As per a decree of the Kurdistan Regional Government's Council of Ministers in 2003, any company, factory, shop or organization that has three or more workers or staff, should be covered by the unemployment protection network, or the social security fund
According to the decree the employer has to contribute to the fund an amount equal to %12 of the basic salary of the workers every month, and the employees have to contribute % 5 of their monthly basic salary.
The funds will be kept by the KRG Ministry of Labor to protect the rights of laborers and to become a financial support for them in case they become unemployed or retired.
Mahmood Sinjari, Director of Erbil Labor and Social Security says that they have a number of inspection teams that visit the companies and factories on a daily basis, and if they find out that there are employers who have not registered all their employees, they will force them to do so.
The benefits that workers get from this fund include the ability to transfer their years of experience from an organization to another as well as the ability to withdraw all the money they and their employers contributed to the fund when they lose their jobs. However, as Sinjari explained, some employers do not want to pay their % 2 share of the contribution, "therefore, they try to keep the worker uninformed about their rights."
According to Sinjari, in Erbil there are more than 4000 projects registered in the social security scheme and pay contributions for a total of 13,000 staff.
Kamaran Fattah, who owns a small steel workshop, says that he has 8 workers who are all registered with social security office.
"I registered their names by myself," said Fattah in an interview with the Globe. "If I don't do that it means that I am stealing from my own employees."
Sinjari told the Globe that the number of companies and factories that are not yet registered with them is more than 1,000, and he argued that shortage in the inspection teams he has makes it difficult for them to visit, inspect and follow up all those projects.
According to Omar Isamel, Head of the Erbil Branch of the Worker's Syndicate, they have around 40,000 registered workers in Erbil.
Comparing this number to the 13,000 workers registered with the social security office, there are still tens of thousands of workers in Erbil who are deprived from their basic social security right and have no guarantee about their future.
Ismael explains that many workers have been told by their employers that social security is not in their benefit claiming that they should pay 5% of their salaries to the government without getting any benefits from that.
"I would like to ask all the workers to ask for their rights and do not allow their employers misuse them," Ismael told the Globe.
Although there are efforts to reduce 5% of the employers, share in the contribution, while the government would compensate this 5%, but Ismael still insists that employers should be forced to guarantee the rights of their employees.
There are currently thousands of employers are escaping from social security contributions in Kurdistan, but both Sinjari and Ismael believe that the best and easiest solution for this is that employees should visit the social security office themselves and ask for their rights, then inspection teams can visit the employers and force them to register the visiting and other employees working for them.