News Release ILAB News Release: [12/20/2012]

US secretary of labor releases report on Bahrain’s labor compliance

WASHINGTON — Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today released a report on Bahrain's compliance with its labor commitments under the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement. The report concludes that, while the government of Bahrain has instituted important mechanisms to address issues stemming from the 2011 unrest in Bahrain, it appears to have acted inconsistently with the Labor Chapter of the FTA in its response to that unrest. The report recommends consultations between the United States and Bahrain under the Labor Chapter and offers recommendations to serve as a road map for a collaborative discussion and a positive resolution of the issues.

The report responds to a submission filed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations with the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of International Labor Affairs Office of Trade and Labor Affairs. The report recognizes that the Bahraini government, in particular the minister of labor, has made significant efforts to ensure reinstatement of all but a few hundred of roughly 2,700 workers fired following the unrest in February and March 2011.

Nevertheless, the report also finds that the government of Bahrain appears to have acted inconsistently with its commitments to strive to ensure that its laws recognize and protect freedom of association and the elimination of employment discrimination, to ensure that its laws provide for standards consistent with internationally recognized labor rights and to improve those laws. The government of Bahrain did not take steps to remedy shortcomings in its laws on freedom of association and employment discrimination, applied those laws to the detriment of workers' rights in the wake of the March 2011 general strike and subsequently passed amendments that weaken freedom of association protections.

Specifically, the report details that, in the widespread dismissals after the March 2011 general strike, trade unionists and leaders were targeted for firing and at times criminal prosecution for their role in the strike, and Shia workers and political critics of the government faced discrimination. The report notes that the reinstatement process for these dismissed workers has raised additional concerns of violations of freedom of association and political and sectarian-based discrimination against Shia workers, which reflect the larger context of a deteriorating labor rights environment in Bahrain.

Secretary Solis explained, "It is our duty to ensure that trading partners meet their commitments to labor standards in free trade agreements. We at the Department of Labor, and throughout the Obama administration, take this responsibility very seriously, and this report reflects that. We are hopeful that through engagement with our trading partner we will find a solution that is good for workers both in the United States and Bahrain."

Read the report in English at Read the report in Arabic at