Minimum wage for expats 'vital'
Manama, June 29, 2008
The government must introduce a minimum wage for all expatriates to safeguard the rights of Bahrain's foreign labour force, say human rights activists.
Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) adviser Abdulnabi Al Ekri said employers continue to treat expatriate workers like "slaves", paying them BD50 ($132.6) a month and forcing them to work seven days a week.
Al Ekri welcomed the creation of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), but said more radical policies were needed to improve the conditions of foreign workers.
"When there is no minimum wage and people are getting BD50 a month and working seven days a week this is slavery," he said.
"There should be a minimum wage for every worker, whether he is expatriate or not. There is also a need to enforce existing laws on working hours, conditions and safety."
"Everyday we hear about workers falling from scaffoldings and dying," he noted.
Al Ekri said thousands of business licences were still being used to bring free visa workers to Bahrain for huge fees.
"We need to enforce cases involving influential people who bring these workers and let them loose in the market," he said.
The Philippine government introduced a minimum wage of $400 (BD151) for all domestic workers in December 2006 with the introduction of a "super maid" training programme.
Only those aged 25 and over, who have undertaken 400 hours of training in performing household chores with modern housekeeping machines, worked as a nanny to children or managed a household are eligible for the title.
They must also be qualified to at least high school diploma standard and proficient in written and spoken English.
However, the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, reported in March last year that demand for Filipino maids had dropped significantly as employers felt the new wage was too high.
Bahrain's construction industry was hit by a spate of strikes earlier this year after the Indian government announced a BD100 minimum basic wage for its unskilled workers in Bahrain.
However, officials later did a U-turn and said they had no intention of imposing a minimum wage in any country.-TradeArabia News Service