Construction crisis blamed for workers’ hardship
Manama, March 11, 2010
Several workers were denied holidays and the visas of several others have not been renewed due to a crisis in the construction industry, said the CEO of a top construction firm in Bahrain.
Zuhair Awachi, chief executive officer of Habib Ali Awachi and Sons Company, blamed global financial turmoil, delays in payments from clients - including the government - and a tax on expat workers for crippling the construction industry.
But he claimed the company was now in the process of cancelling the visas of its workforce and sending them back home.
'We are aware that visas of some of our workers have not been renewed,' he said.
'And we also know that many have applied for annual leave, but their applications have been rejected,” he added.
'We are cancelling their visas and sending them back to their countries. We have already sent 28 last month and 10 at the beginning of this month.”
'The reason is that we didn't get BD800,000 ($2.12 million) from one of the ministries and, on top of that, we have to spend a lot of money on expat workers when we bring them to Bahrain to work for us,” Awachi continued.
'We are spending a lot of money on their training, and Labour Market Regularity Authority (LMRA) and General Organisation for Social Insurance (Gosi) fees.
'The LMRA knows our situation very well; we are suffering as a construction company and due to budget problems. We haven't received payment from ministries for several months and we have an official letter from them asking us to bear with them.”
'We, as a local company, can only wait and try to finish the work on time - but foreign companies abandon the work and leave the country.”
Awachi said the company had already flown home hundreds of workers in the past six months, and said 100 more were due to leave within two months.
'We have 800 expats and 250 Bahrainis working for us and we increased the basic salary for each employee last year,' he added.
'Our company is located on the road - it's not hidden and everybody knows about it. The problem is that we can't satisfy all our workers and, unfortunately, we have to send them back.”
'We are now processing their documents and finalising their settlements so that they can leave for good and forever,” he said.
'Everybody knows that liquidity in the market is very low and, for us, it was really a bad season. In the last six months, 240 workers left Bahrain and we are looking for more idle manpower to be sent back.'
Awachi revealed that family funds were being pumped into the company, but said he hoped for a quick recovery from the crisis.
'We have high hopes that Bahrain will recover soon and all the sectors, not only construction, will boom again,' Awachi concluded. – TradeArabia News Service
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