Bahrain factory in talks to call off closure plans
Manama, June 15, 2014
Negotiations are underway with owners of a garment factory to call off plans to close operations in Bahrain.
MRS Fashions, which exports up to 70 per cent of its products to the US, said it will shut down after around 2,000 workers went on strike last week, reported the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
However, company officials told the GDN yesterday they were in talks with owners in Hong Kong in a bid to save thousands of jobs.
Indian and Bangladeshi employees downed tools last Tuesday after trashing the company's factory in Hajiyat, near Riffa, amid allegations of withheld salaries, unfair deportations, poor working conditions and mistreatment.
They have refused to co-operate with company management and Labour Ministry officials and have made a set of 12 demands, including pay rise and better food and medical care.
"We have been further discussing with our owners in Hong Kong regarding the plans to close down as we are not happy about the fact that just because of a handful employees, thousands are losing their jobs," said a company spokesman yesterday.
"Over the weekend - the time frame the ministry has given us to take a decision - we have been working on various options.
"There are hundreds of long-serving employees with us, who are sole breadwinners of their families back home. Losing a job overnight will be tough on them.
"Many employees have called and told us that they are not part of the strike and were ready to work.
"So are the Burmese and Sri Lankan women employees in our Hidd unit, who are innocent. We had to close down that unit as well.
"In such a scenario, we need to further think about closing down, as it involves the livelihood of over 1,800 workers, of which over 200 are Bahraini women."
However, he said if the workers were adamant on a pay rise, then the company had no choice but to shut down.
"A double rise in salary is an unreasonable demand and with work on halt for almost a week now, investors and partners are not happy," he explained.
"In case of a shut down, we will act according to the Bahraini labour law. All employees will be given their dues.
"We are also thinking of how to compensate the innocent women employees in Hidd unit and the Bahraini women who had pledged their support to the company."
A representative of the striking employees said they would not back down from their demands.
"We have been holding meetings every night since the incident and we are united in our decision," he told the GDN.
"It is the management who is trying to bring in differences among us.
"We need better wages and work conditions and we had informed the Labour Ministry official who visited us on the day of the incident."
The strike followed an incident last Monday when Indian machine operator Tariq Iqbal was allegedly mistreated when he tried to resign.
Iqbal later admitted that he slapped one of his superiors, but claimed he had been provoked.
When his co-workers heard that Iqbal had been handed over to police and potentially faced deportation, a riot broke out in the factory leaving machinery, furniture and office equipment smashed and broken.
The GDN earlier reported that police have issued arrest warrants for 25 workers in connection with vandalising the factory.
MRS Fashions told the GDN last year that it manufactured 160,000 garment items a week for global retailers such as Macy's, JC Penney, Kohl's, Belk and Walmart. - TradeArabia News Service