Image for illustrative purposes
Labour rights activists in Bahrain are planning to launch an organisation that will protect the rights of more than 120,000 migrant workers in the country, local newspaper Gulf Daily News reported.
The initiative is in the final stages and is being organised by the Bahrain Free Labour Union Federation (BFLUF), according to local media.
“We have finalised our plans to set up a construction union in Bahrain that will work towards protecting the rights of thousands of semi-skilled migrant workers, who are often exploited,” said Bassem Kuwaitan, vice president, BFLUF.
“We will be charging a nominal fee of BD1.200 per year, which comes to 100 fils a month.”
The union will aim to provide legal assistance and address issues about wages and safe accommodation along with health and safety insurance for construction workers.
He said the union also plans to tackle the issue of contract substitution in which a worker is promised a specific salary in his home country but is forced to sign a different contract with a lesser pay on arrival in Bahrain.
Kuwaitan added that he expected a large turnout for the union but also foresaw some challenges in operating it.
“The challenge ahead of us it to encourage companies and even workers to be part of trade unions, as they tend to shy away or ignore us.”
Kuwaitan said that an election will be held to select the union’s board, which will comprise of both Bahrainis and expats.
“Our challenge is to form one body that represents all Bahraini and expatriate workforce in the construction sector,” he said.
BFLUF was launched in 2012 and has been instrumental in bringing unions of different sectors together in Bahrain.
Currently, BFLUF has 18 trade unions under its umbrella and an estimated 20,000 members including expatriates.
It also formed a National Union of Bahraini Pensioners in April this year to fight for the rights of Bahrain’s 40,000 pensioners.
Labour unions are a rarity in the Gulf where expat workers are sponsored by their employers or local citizens. But Gulf states have reformed laws periodically to ensure better protection for migrant domestic workers.
The UAE recently drafted a new law to regulate and protect domestic workers in the country, according to state news agency WAM.
As part of it, the Ministry of Interior has revised and updated a standard form contract, established to regulate the relationship between domestic workers and their employers.