Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Bahrainis take to the streets over job security

At a rally, a union leader says workers in the country were not immune from the repercussions of the global financial crisis.

MANAMA // Bahrainis marked International Workers Day yesterday with a march on the National Assembly amid growing concerns over job security and migrant workers rights. More than a thousand unionised workers and their families chanting, "Unity, Unity, Workers", and "Worker raise your head, let the struggle be your shield", marched on the streets of the capital during the annual May Day labour rally, which ended at the doorsteps of parliament.

At the rally, Salman al Mahfood, the secretary general of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), an umbrella organisation for unions, said that workers in Bahrain were not immune from the repercussions of the global financial crisis. "Workers in the construction and financial sectors were most affected by this crisis in Bahrain. The state needs to play in a role in stopping the wave of layoffs," he said. "The Bahraini staff working in the banking and financial sector are true national wealth that should not be relinquished nor wasted."

According to the Bankers Union, the country lost more than 600 jobs in the sector last year. Khalil Zainal, the head of the Bankers Union, said that in the past few weeks alone about 60 people also lost their jobs, while sources in the industry suggested that banks here would not consider adding new jobs until next year. Earlier in the day, during a ceremony for "outstanding workers", Majeed al Alawi, the minister of labour, said that 20,000 Bahrainis had been hired last year, with more than 1,000 people finding jobs through a government project for unemployed university graduates.

Over the past few months, a sharp increase in layoffs across several industries have made demonstrations by the unemployed, and labour strikes, a common occurrence. The largest of the left-leaning opposition groups, the National Democratic Action Society, or Waad, called on the government yesterday to halt its "erratic and unexamined" privatisation of some public sector establishments. In a statement handed out at the rally, Waad said that the absence of "proper oversight" in privatisation ventures raised concerns about their legality.

It added that there was "a need to combat corruption and protect the contributions" of the workers to the General Organisation for Social Insurance, the country's social welfare arm that, according to Waad, was facing a deficit and could possibly be bankrupt in less than two decades. Nationalist Democratic Assembly (NDA), an opposition grouping closely linked to the Iraqi Baath party, called for the suspension of the naturalisation policy, which it claimed was unfair for Bahrainis by allowing foreign workers to compete with them for available jobs.

GFBTU, Waad and NDA also renewed calls to allow the workers in the public sector to form unions. Labour issues have dominated the past week, which saw protests for laid-off workers, the death of the influential unionist Jaleel al Hoori, the government's first assessment report of efforts to combat human trafficking, and GFBTU holding a two-day conference to address how to best protect the rights of migrant workers.

The government's human trafficking report, released on Thursday, detailed efforts to protect migrant workers from exploitation and trafficking, including legislation, training procedures for government staff, and the government's co-operation with the UN and international organisations. The report received praise from human rights and migrant workers protection activists. "Acknowledging the issue is the first step to tackling it," said Noora Essa Feleyfel, the head of the action committee at the Migrant Workers Protection Society. "There is a lot of work to be done, but we are heading in the right direction. We need to have a clear definition of human trafficking and to have criteria that we can measure against in order to bring those cases forward because right now it is still vague and covers a broad range of issues."

The society also helped pass a set of a recommendations on Thursday at the end of a two-day conference that was attended by labour representatives from Nepal, the Philippines, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Yemen, and organised by the GFBTU and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions. The International Workers Day, or May Day, commemorates the struggle to secure the right for an eight-hour work day after US police in Chicago opened fire on workers during a general strike in 1886. At least a dozen people were killed and several were injured. Trials relating to the clashes led to the hanging of seven others.

mmahdi@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greeted by university students as he leaves Sistan University in Sistan and Baluchestan’s provincial capital of Zahedan on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

In Iran’s most troubled province, Rouhani hears pleas for change

Hassan Rounani aims to connect with residents of far-flung Sistan and Baluchestan province.

 Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Riyadh on March 3, 2007. Hassan Ammar / AFP Photo

Saudi Prince Bandar promised a victory he could not deliver

Saudi Arabia's controversial intelligence chief stepped down this week after rumours that his policies on Syria had fallen out of favour.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen. AFP Photo

The inner workings of Gulen’s ‘parallel state’

Fethullah Gulen's followers are accused of trying to push Turkey's prime minister from power.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National