Atul Aneja

Two workers allegedly deported to India

DUBAI: As Bahrain’s construction workers, majority of them Indians, went on strike, officials of an affected company adopted a hard line and the country’s apex trade union expressed broad support for the agitation.

Bahrain’s human rights activists have also backed the call for higher wages, citing the recent steep hike in prices. However, two out of the over 2,000 workers on strike were allegedly deported to India on separate flights, the Bahraini newspaper, Gulf Daily News, has reported.

According to the daily, the two were the spokesmen for the agitating employees of a company.

Representatives of another construction company, whose 1,800 employees are on strike, have also not yielded to the demands for wage increase. Its project manager said a raise in salaries was not on the cards.

Bahrain’s Labour Minister Majeed Al Alawi was quoted as saying that the company abided by the country’s health and safety laws. A misunderstanding on India’s decision to fix the minimum wage at 100 Bahraini Dinars (BD) (around Rs.10, 000) from March 1 onwards triggered the strike, he said.

Most of the agitating workers are being paid far less than BD 100, but are party to contracts which bind them to their present emoluments.

However, sources in the construction industry told The Hindu that low wages, high labour demand, rising inflation and the tumbling value of the dollar were behind the growing number of agitations in Bahrain.

The Bahrain Nursing Society is also reportedly considering an agitation to press for higher pay and larger recruitment of locals.

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) information secretary Jaffer Khalil said the right to strike was “a basic right of any worker — whether Bahraini or expatriate.”

“We are pained to note that some of these workers are living in inhuman conditions and are being paid as little as BD40 every month,” he added.

The head of the Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) action committee, Marietta Dias, also urged the employers to review the pay scales in the light of the growing cost of living in Bahrain.

Verbal hearing

Responding to the labour unrest, Bahrain’s Shura council has summoned the Labour Minister for a verbal hearing on the working conditions of expatriate workers.

According to a survey by Arabian business.com, more than half of the employees in Bahrain are likely to look for an alternative employment in 2008.

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