New association for expat labourers' rights
Manama, June 15, 2014
Unionists in Bahrain are mobilising to create a new association that will fight for the rights of more than 120,000 expatriate labourers working in Bahrain's construction sector.
The initiative, spearheaded by the Bahrain Free Labour Union Federation (BFLUF), is in its final stages and members have started visiting companies to encourage migrant workers to join the new body, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
BFLUF vice-president Bassem Kuwaitan told the GDN membership fees for the national construction union will be as low as 100 fils (26 cents) a month.
"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," he said.
"We will be charging a nominal fee of BD1.200 per year, which comes to 100 fils a month.
"The number of members is going to be huge and we are working on other areas within BFLUF to accommodate and help these workers."
He said the workers will be provided with legal assistance and other services, including improving their living conditions and health insurance.
"The planned union is expected to address issues on wages, safe accommodation, health, safety, insurance and other issues affecting construction workers," he explained.
"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."
He said they also plan to tackle ongoing problems with contract substitution in which a worker is promised a specific salary in his home country but is forced to sign another contract with lesser pay on arrival in Bahrain.
Kuwaitan said an election will be held to fill seats on the union's board, which will comprise Bahrainis and expatriates.
"Our challenge is to form one body that represents all Bahraini and expatriate workforce in the construction sector," he added.
BFLUF was launched in 2012 to compete with the existing General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), which was previously the only organisation grouping together unions of different sectors 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. - TradeArabia News Service