Bahrain trade unionists to continue strike
Manama, March 21, 2011
Trade unionists in Bahrain have agreed to continue with a week-old national strike indefinitely.
The decision was taken yesterday during an urgent meeting of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, an umbrella organisation that oversees most union activity.
Members said they would return to work when security was eased and police checkpoints were removed from the streets.
'Workers are scared to go out to work as there are checkpoints everywhere and in some case they are questioned unnecessarily by authorities,' said GFBTU secretary-general Salman Mahfoodh.
'The strike will continue until further notice.'
The Federation first called a general strike for February 20 after the Bahraini military was deployed on the streets following a week of protests, but it was called off the same day after the tanks were pulled out.
The current strike was called at the start of last week in solidarity with protesters, but Mahfoodh said the decision to continue had more to do with the current security crackdown.
'We know the situation is tense, but we also want workers to return back,' he claimed.
'It is not possible under the present circumstances with police and military on the streets checking IDs of people.
'Naturally, workers are avoiding resuming their duties.'
He welcomed the return to work of expatriate workers, after many people chose to remain at home last week due to heightened tensions.
However, he said many Bahrainis were still unwilling to leave their homes.
'Several expatriate workers have resumed their duties, which is a good sign,' he said.
'But there is a clear shortage as the Bahraini workforce has not fully returned back.'
The GFBTU has communicated its decision to continue with the strike to 69 trade unions, including those at Bapco, Batelco, Bahrain Airport Company and Gulf Air.
The organisation is affiliated with a seven-party coalition of opposition politicians, who have so far refused to enter a national dialogue until certain conditions are met.
Among those taking part in the strike are members of the Bahrain Teachers Society, with a spokeswoman saying teachers were refusing to return to work despite schools opening yesterday for staff.
It is believed the head of the society has been arrested for his role in anti-government protests over the past few weeks, during which time volunteers had to be recruited to fill in for striking teachers.
'All public school teachers who are our members have decided not to go to work,' she said.
'Teachers are also concerned as they have not heard from society head Mahdi Abu Deeb for two days.'
Abu Deeb could not be reached for comment yesterday.-TradeArabia News Service