Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco) dismissed hundreds of its employees in retaliation for their political views

19 May 2011

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights are deeply concerned by Bahrain’s Government persistence in taking arbitrary actions and punishments against the citizens who believes they participated or supported the peaceful protests in February and March. The authorities are targeting the workers in particular; hundreds were tyrannically dismissed from their jobs. As well as prosecuting them criminally as a punishment for exercising their legitimate rights that is guaranteed by the international instruments and ratified by Bahrain.

May 10th 2011, Dr Abdul Hussain Ali Mirza , Bahrain’s Energy Minister announced that Bahrain Petroleum Company "BAPCO” has dissolved the company workers’ union and separated its Chairman -Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Hussain-, as well as 11 members of the directors of the syndicate board and referred them to prosecution to apply penalties. Also, 293 employees were dismissed, 50 others are under investigation, 17 had final warning, and a written warning for four [1]. Nowadays, the company is investigating the workers per day through the commissions of inquiry which was established in April to prelude their dismissal; it is expected to separates another 150 workers in the coming days.

This comes after the workers response of the Union calls for a general strike twice in February 20 and March 13 remonstrating on the human rights violations and attacks on the peaceful protests in the Pearl Roundabout and in all Bahrain's streets, this reached the extent of the descent of the army into the streets and killing the protesters. Seven citizens died after the second call for a general strike on 13th March 2011. 20th February, the first strike was suspended after withdrawing the army from the Pearl Roundabout. Again, 13th March 2011, The General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain called for a second open- ended strike in solidarity with the protesters, who were violently suppressed from the Pearl Roundabout and the surrounding areas of Bahrain Financial Harbor the same day the government called the Saudi military to intervene and impose a state of martial law, impose checkpoints in many commotion areas, and deploy security and military patrolling in Shiite villages. However, The General Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Bahrain called off the strike on 22th March after the government guarantees the Union not to harassment the workers in the workplace and reduce the checkpoints that were insulting and attacking citizens by beating or arresting.

Nevertheless, the Authority has began an open retaliation campaign against anyone participated in the protest or supported it, especially the working class workers ,engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, athletes, journalists and unionists. About 2000 workers from several ministries, governmental bodies and private companies controlled by the State were dismissed from their jobs. Causing a living damages in equivalent to 12 000 citizens when the average number of family members is six. [2]

"BAPCO" is wholly owned by the Government of Bahrain, operating in the oil industry and it has approximately 3200 employees, the company management proceeded to dismiss up to 300 employees in batches. At first, separated the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the company's sole Union Mr. Abdel Ghaffar Abdel Hussein on April 2, 2011, then separated 11-Members out of 14-Members on 5 April 2011. Another 200 employees were dismissed through the telephone as without an administrative investigation or warning them in advance by gradient in internal procedures. Moreover, 50 more were dismissed, and then approximately 100 additional staff was separated in batches after investigation into administrative commissions of inquiry established by the company. Each commissions of inquiry have an employee from the human resources department and lawyer from the law firm, the company's lawyer investigates with the employee and the human resources employee writes the investigation record. furthermore, the inquiry lifts its report to the higher Committee consisting of the Director of the company as well as a member of the law firm, after which the Committee recommendations to higher Committee consisting of two directors and the national body responsible for oil and gas to ratify the recommendations, the Committee finally lifts its report to the CEO of the company for the final approval.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights has received several testimonies from BAPCO's employees who have been interrogated. Their statements were identical to their interrogation that included questions about whether they participated in the peaceful marches asking for democracy and political rights in February and March 2011. In addition to the political affiliation of the employee, the commissions of inquiry fronted some of the employees with their pictures while participating in the marches. Also, it focused on the employee’s response on the strike announced by the Union of workers of the Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO) and the General Federation of Bahrain trade unions on the 20th of February 2011 and from 13 to 22 March 2011.

Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights has received a lot of investigation records by "BAPCO" Bahrain oil company, which included questions about the employee participation in the sit-ins and marches held last December and February [3]. Also, the Center and the Assembly received dozens of the documents showing a summary of the recommendations of the commissions of inquiry, these documents clearly reveal that many staff were dismissed for taking part in marches or sit-ins [4], among the documents are samples of images that were shown to certain employees during the investigation, which appears a certain staff member in the march with a framework on the employee and the employee's place of work [5].

These arbitrary retaliatory procedures the authorities applies contravenes the local law , reprisals the employees political views , exercises their rights which is guaranteed by the Constitution and international conventions and contrary to Bahrain labour law of 1976 and in particular article no. 110, the worker should be receiving a notice of dismissal from the employer by a registered letter having been dispatched by the employer to the worker or by any communication proving the delivery thereof. Contrary to article (113.4) An employer shall not dismiss a worker without payment of indemnity allowance, notice or compensation [6]. It is violation of rights and freedoms of the trade union, making unions within the company without any cover trade union to defend their rights and maintain their earnings. Also, all of these actions, both against trade unionists and workers as a serious violations of all international charters and conventions that guarantees freedom of trade union such as the Convention ILO No. 111 concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation- Article 1 (any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation). The Director-General of the International Labour Organization, Juan Somavia, expressed his concern about the declaration of the state of emergency in Bahrain, saying that this step constitutes a serious setback to the civil liberties including the right to exercise trade union activities [7].

Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights expressed their deep concern at Bahrain Petroleum Company "BAPCO" procedures for dismissal, due the fact that the investigation procedures and the questions directed to the staff were based on their political and personal views, and failed to abide the company local laws and internal regulations. The Assembly expresses grave concern that all the separated were Shiites, as a percentage of nearly 30%. As well as, the Assembly was informed that the commission of inquiry has a new list of more than 150 Shiite that intends to dismiss them in the coming days, but still waiting for the Executive Chairman to approve it.

The Center and the BYSHR calls upon the Bahraini authorities:

1. Stop the unfair dismissal at BAPCO and other premises and returns all separated to their work. 2. Stop the criminal prosecution of trade unionists and workers, which came as an impact to their political positions and defend their fundamental rights of the protesters in peaceful protests. 3. Establish an independent Commission of inquiry to investigate the dismissal procedures to find out whether it is politically or sectarian motivated. 4. Demanding an urgent intervention from the International Labour Organization to conduct an impartial investigation into the reasons of the separation of workers, stop the arbitrary dismissals, reinstating their work and ensure their legitimate rights. 5. Demanding an immediate intervention from the International Federation of Trade Unions to stop the demobilization of trade unionists, to ensure their legitimate rights in work and to exercise the union activity. 6. Demanding the U.S. administration to stop the free trade agreement with Bahrain unless it recants the violation of the article relating to the guarantee of labor rights and trade union required by the convention of the labour side.

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[1] bna.bh alwasatnews.com [2] [3] Samples of the records of the investigation at Bapco Bahrain Petroleum Company - Click on image for a larger view

[4] Sample of documents showing summary of the recommendations of the commissions of investigation at Bapco Bahrain Petroleum Company - Click on image for a larger view

[5]Sample of images showing the staff during their participation in the marches brought to the staff during the investigation.

[6]gcclsa.org [7] bahrainrights.org