Bahrain: Lawyers sent to protect workers’ rights

By Soman Baby

Lawyers have been sent out by the Labour Ministry to protect the rights of workers at a strike-hit construction company. The move comes after the ministry brokered a deal to send 1,800 strikers at G P Zachariades back to work. The men have pledged to go back to work today, in return for the company promising to properly review wages and conditions.

Those who don’t accept the deal will be free to go home and ministry lawyers will ensure they are paid all their dues, said Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi.  He said a team of lawyers was sent to G P Zachariades’ Durrat Al Bahrain site yesterday.

Labour Under-Secretary Shaikh Abdulrahman bin Abdulla Al Khalifa said yesterday afternoon that the ministry had been able to broker a settlement to end the strike. “Under the settlement, the company will improve the salaries in a reasonable manner for those workers who want to continue,” he said in a Press release.

“For those who want to leave, all dues will be paid under the supervision of the Labour Ministry.” Shaikh Abdulrahman praised the company for its co-operation and resorting to dialogue to resolve the crisis. Dr Al Alawi said he had sent a team of lawyers from the ministry to ensure that no worker was denied his rights.

“Any worker who decides to go home must receive all his dues,” he added. “Earlier, I sent a team of inspectors from our health and safety section to check conditions at the GPZ labour camp. “The conditions at the camp were satisfactory. The workers were complaining about the pay structure.” Dr Al Alawi said it was essential that workers benefited from the success of the companies, which employ them.

“I understand that the devaluation of dollar and inflation have eaten into the income of expatriate workers,” he noted. “I hope companies in Bahrain will look into this aspect and improve the working conditions of both Bahrainis and expatriates.”

On India’s proposal to introduce a minimum wage of BD100 to unskilled workers, Dr Al Alawi said it couldn’t be applied in other countries.

“However, it is entirely the right of the Indian government to determine a minimum wage for its workers and prevent their nationals from leaving India to take up jobs which do not pay the fixed wage,” he added.

India’s relations with Bahrain are extremely good, said Dr Al Alawi.  “We have lived with Indians for many years and our relationship goes far beyond jobs,” he said. “We do not want to see any agitation between the Indian community and their Bahraini employers.  “What we want to see is a strong partnership from which both sides will benefit.” The society in Bahrain is multi-cultural, said Dr Al Alawi. “Bahrain has always welcomed expatriates from other countries,” he said.

“We want to maintain peace and harmony between various communities. Certain incidents of agitation are not good for our image.” Dr Al Alawi said the views he had expressed in a recent interview with a Saudi-based Arabic newspaper over a flood of foreign workers were not directed against expatriate community in the Gulf.

“I was addressing my own people and talking about the changing demographic structure in the Gulf and the dangers of nationals becoming a minority in their own countries,” he noted.

“I told about the situation of Gulf families who are becoming lazy by totally relying on housemaids and household workers from Asia.

“I also talked about the greed of Gulf businessmen who bring more and more workers from Asia paying low wages.”

Dr Al Alawi said his was the loudest voice heard in the Gulf to protect the rights of expatriate workers. “Bahrain is the first Gulf country to grant licences to a non-governmental organisation which has been set up to protect the rights of expatriate workers – the Migrant Workers’ Protection Society,” he noted.

Dr Al Alawi also reiterated that the midday work ban for labourers during the hot summer months was implemented last year despite objections from the business community.

“We also insisted that employers should pay the salaries of their workers through a bank transfer,” he added. “This was done to ensure that the workers are paid by their employers regularly and without fail.” (Gulf Daily news)

Labour standards in Bahrain

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