Strike threat by recruitment agencies rapped
Manama, June 17, 2014
A strike threatened by Bahrain's housemaid recruitment agencies in response to proposed stricter regulation of the market has been branded "despicable" by a top labour official.
Bahrain Recruiters Society (BRS), which represents the majority of licensed recruitment or "manpower" agencies in the country, has called for a general strike during Ramadan, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The move would see them halt the hiring of domestic workers for the whole of the holy month and was called for in protest against new rules issued by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), effective since June 1, which require agencies to have at least BD10,000 ($26,397) deposited in a bank account in order to have their licence renewed.
LMRA chief executive Ausamah Al Absi told the GDN that he understood the agencies' concerns, but thought BD10,000 was a small price to pay when they "deal with the lives of underprivileged domestic workers and charge Bahraini households in excess of BD1,000" each.
"Of course it is understandable that they would resist efforts to bring some order and balance to their stranglehold on the market," he said.
"However, threatening to take the market hostage in exchange for their monopoly is despicable and clear evidence that this monopoly must come under the watchful eye of the law."
Meanwhile, BRS representatives said that they were looking into all possible options prior to declaring a strike.
After failing to reach an agreement with Al Absi during a meeting two weeks ago, BRS officials are now awaiting a reply from the office of His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa after requesting a meeting to discuss their concerns.
"We have written about our objection to this to the Labour Ministry and they had referred the matter to the LMRA," said BRS chairman Fareed Al Mahmeed, who claimed that recruitment agencies were not against holding a BD10,000 deposit, but did not want to be held "solely responsible" for issues arising from the hiring of domestic workers.
"It looks like we are responsible for all the runaway housemaids and other similar cases," he said.
"It is unfair, as we are just mediators between the sponsors in Bahrain and the agents in the sending country."
Al Mahmeed told the GDN that recruiters hire workers based solely upon their job applications, never actually meeting them face-to-face.
"In some cases, the resume of the worker looks perfect, but the individual may not be suitable or as desired by the employer," he said.
"Either way, we are ready to help sponsors, even if it is after the agreed three-month period of our contract." - TradeArabia News Service