Published: 5th February 2008

NEARLY 750 Asian workers downed tools at Almoayyed Contracting yesterday demanding better pay.

The majority were Indians, but they were also accompanied by colleagues from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

They claimed they were protesting because they were paid between BD60 and BD85 and said they would not return to work until a better deal is on the table.

However, the company denied this and claimed the workers' salaries range from BD75 to BD150.

"We are almost 700 workers, including masons, welders and others, at the labour camp in East Eker," said one worker, who asked to remain anonymous.

"Our basic salary for a month ranges from BD60 to BD85, but we want it raised to between BD100 and BD120 - that is by nearly BD40."

Another worker, who also asked to remain anonymous, said the company had a reputation of offering some of the most competitive salaries in the industry.

"Unfortunately, it is only for their skilled and office staff," he added.

"Nobody wants to think about us, toiling long hours in the harsh climate here.

"We are right to think we deserve a raise because if it was not for us, none of the company's projects would have been completed.

"It's only when the brain and the hand combine that a job is accomplished, but it is not fair to reward only the brain."

One Indian worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said workers were feeling the pinch of inflation and the soaring value of currencies at home.

"Now, with Bahrain's inflation and the Indian rupee getting stronger, we cannot even manage to send home BD20," he said.

"We've been asking the company for a couple of years for a raise - at least a small one to ease our burden.

"Over the last 18 months we've strengthened our request.

"But it seems to be falling on deaf ears because they just keep saying they'll look into it.

"Once, one official even told us that we had no business to ask for a raise - saying it was up to the company to decide."

Another worker claimed other companies in Bahrain were improving the salaries of labourers.

"A company official who came to speak to us to reach a compromise told us we should get back to work as the company's reputation was at stake," he added.

"He also said the general manger was in Dubai and would return only after five days and they are not authorised to take any decision until then.

"We replied that we were ready to wait, but would not return to work until a favourable decision is taken."

However, a company spokesman yesterday accused the workers of staging the protest for reasons other than salaries. "I believe that someone is behind this incident and has influenced the workers, otherwise they wouldn't do something like this," he said.

"I can assure you that no company in Bahrain pays their workers anything less than BD75 - just like us.

"Our minimum basic salary for workers is BD75 and it goes up to BD150, plus overtime and accommodation.

"We are trying to get more details about the strike and to find out the truth because these people keep changing their statements."

begena@gdn.com.bh

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