Factory strike ends in Bahrain after pay rise deal
Manama, June 17, 2014
An estimated 2,000 workers who downed tools last week after trashing a factory have agreed to report for duty today (June 17) following a pay rise.
Staff of MRS Fashions, which manufactures garments for US companies such as Macy's, JC Penney and Walmart, have accepted a raise of BD8 ($21) per month - and will be treated to a celebration party tonight by the management, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
They smashed up the company's production facility in Hajiyat, near Riffa, and staged a mass walkout last week amid allegations of withheld salaries, unfair deportations, poor working conditions and mistreatment - claims the company denied.
Bahrain's labour authorities later issued the Indian and Bangladeshi employees an ultimatum that they would be deported unless they returned to work, after they initially refused to hold talks with management.
The workers instead issued a list of demands including better wages, food and medical care and threatened to continue their strike indefinitely until they were met.
Labour Ministry inspection and labour unions director Ahmed Al Haiki told the GDN that striking workers received a written warning, stating that legal action would be taken if they did not report for duty.
However, the staff have now agreed to a pay rise negotiated between the Labour Ministry, company management, the employees' embassies, the Indian Community Relief Fund (ICRF) and Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS).
"We tried to convince these workers to go back to work, but they were adamant and said company management mistreated them," said Al Haiki.
"We had several meetings and spoke to the workers about problems they would face if they leave this job.
"We also had meetings with company officials and embassies, who spoke to the workers and tried to convince them.
"The problem is finally solved and workers - men and women - have agreed to go to work from Tuesday."
Al Haiki added that talks would also be held on the daily targets set for the workforce.
"A BD8 increase in wages was decided by us and the management and workers agreed to it," he said.
"Daily target to be met by workers will be discussed by our grievance department and company officials."
Meanwhile, he revealed 11 workers arrested on Sunday after the MRS Fashions factory was trashed had been released after the company dropped all charges against them.
"Eleven workers who started all this were taken into police custody after the management filed a complaint against them," he said.
"But they were released after charges were dropped.
"They are now willing to join others for work."
Al Haiki added that he had been impressed by the professionalism of the embassies involved, company management and community volunteers in resolving the problem.
"I was personally involved in this case and I must say the company and embassies did a good job in handling this case," he said.
"I would also like to thank MWPS and ICRF volunteers, who spent time and tried their best to find a solution to end this strike.
"Bahrain is known for protecting workers' rights and its health and safety regulations when it comes to labour issues.
"This company is one of the finest in Bahrain and follows labour laws, which proves they have a good record with us.
"We will regularly follow up and monitor the company and workers."
Al Haiki said a party had been organised at the workers' accommodation tonight to celebrate.
"We want the workers to know that we are here to help them and protect them, as long as they follow Bahrain labour law," he told the GDN.
"A small party has been organised to appreciate the efforts put in by all to end this strike."
Company executive director Harinder Singh Lamba declined to comment yesterday, saying he would only speak after seeing his staff at work today. - TradeArabia News Service