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Bahrain's trade unions push for basic wage

Manama, October 1, 2008

A new minimum wage is urgently needed to prevent Bahrainis slipping even further into the poverty trap, according to trade unionists.

They have accused the government of "looking the other way" as low-income families struggle to make ends meet on salaries as low as BD200 ($530).

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) said inflation over the past year meant a new minimum wage for both the public and private sectors is needed now more than ever.

It is proposing across-the-board salaries of no less than BD400 for Bahrainis in all fields and plans to finalise its proposal at a conference lined up later this month.

However, GFBTU deputy secretary general Ebrahim Hamad said the body was open to discussions on any "fair wage".

"There is massive inflation and in many cases, while salaries for workers in the public and private sectors have remained far below BD400 the government itself suggested after a survey four years ago, prices of essential commodities have gone up by between 50 and 70 per cent," he told the our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.

"We have people (Bahrainis) earning between BD200 and BD250 a month and in many cases even less, while the government is looking the other way."

The GFBTU will address the issue of salaries at a groundbreaking conference scheduled for October 18.

It hopes to bring together the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Labour Ministry, private companies, trade unions and societies to agree on a minimum salary.

Hamad claimed Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, who will patronise the event, had pledged full support of the government.

"We will have a discussion on what the minimum wage should be and arrive at a conclusion," he added.

The GFBTU says it has the backing of almost all Bahrain's trade unions and wants to act fast before people's economic situation gets worse.

"Higher school fees, grocery bills, water and electricity bills and skyrocketing rents have affected everyone," said Hamad.

A BD215 minimum wage for Bahrainis in the government sector was introduced in November last year through a Labour Ministry notification, but no similar notification has ever been introduced for the private sector, said Hamad.

However, private companies are encouraged to pay their workers no less than BD200.

The GDN reported last week that the average Bahraini salary increased by 13 per cent to BD647 a month in the second quarter of this year.

However, the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) study found the majority (64.2pc) of new private sector jobs for Bahrainis were offering wages of less than BD250 a month. - TradeArabia News Service




Tags: International Labour Organisation | LMRA | bahrain trade unions | GFBTU | ILO |

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