Bahrain expats ‘could get translated contracts’
Manama, July 30, 2014
Bahrain's migrant workers could have their employment contracts translated into their native language if a similar move in Qatar proves successful, according to a top official.
Labour Ministry Under-Secretary Sabah Al Dossary told our sister publication the Gulf Daily News that they would closely monitor the implementation of recommendations made by the Doha-based Qatar Foundation in its latest report on migrant worker welfare.
The report, titled Migrant Labour Recruitment to Qatar and published earlier this month, not only calls for contract translation but also recommends a ban on changes being made to contracts after the employee has left their home country.
"We could definitely adopt the project, once it is reviewed and its success evaluated," said Al Dossary.
"It is routine that we study various projects and review success stories from Gulf nations, during an annual meeting with the Labour Minister held in October.
"Bahrain is always open to projects that are beneficial to foreign labourers - usually, this is the case with other GCC countries as well, but as of now this recommendation is not part of the GCC Supreme Council for labour affairs' agenda."
If Qatar's leadership does recommend the project to the GCC council, then it will be reviewed, Al Dossary added.
Rights activists welcomed the announcement, saying that it would help low-income workers if the report's recommendations were adopted in Bahrain.
The issue of non-existent employment contracts was one of the most common problems reported to the Migrant Workers Protection Society, according to the group's chairwoman Marietta Dias.
"Often we see, while in dispute, employers saying that the employee had broken their contract," said Dias.
"But where is this contract? Usually these employees haven't even seen their contract - be it in any language. In a recent case we saw that a worker's contract was apparently 'renewed' after he got an increment in pay - this was later used against him, but the employee was unaware of these changes. Hence the changing of employment contracts must also be stopped."
Bahrain Federation for Expatriate Associations (BFEA) secretary general Betsy Mathieson said any move to help secure worker's rights was helpful, but called on employers to be more responsible.
"I believe the onus is on employers to be ethical and honour contracts and workers' rights," she said. "We at the BFEA try to work with embassies and workers to ensure that they are aware of their rights and how to pursue them."
Meanwhile, Indian Community Relief Fund (ICRF) chairman Bhagwan Asarpota described the report's recommendations as "novel" but said more had to be done to secure better employee rights.
"We cannot have a complete solution to the variety of abuses that are reported from labourers related to contracts, but all initiatives count as it helps in minimising such cases," he said.
Pakistan Embassy community welfare attache Maqsood Shah also praised the report, saying that expatriates from his country had much to gain from its recommendations.
"Our community in Bahrain is made up of more than 70 per cent low-income group workers. Having a copy of their contract in their native language will help them be aware of their rights," he said. “Respecting the local law, the contract could be in Arabic - but having a copy in the regional languages of the workers as well is ideal."
Shah also suggested that a copy of these contracts could be verified by the embassy and retained by it for safekeeping.
According to the Qatar Foundation report, most migrant workers moving to the Gulf "are at the mercy of their recruitment agents and employers because of their general lack of understanding of their contracts."
It revealed that it was a common practice in Nepal, the Philippines and India for foreign workers bound for the region to be forced to sign a second contract with altered or reduced terms, either immediately prior to their departure or upon their arrival. – TradeArabia News Service