Bahrain extends trucks ban deadline
Manama, January 5, 2009
The Bahrain cabinet has extended the deadline for banning the transport of labourers in open trucks and vehicles until May 1.
The move follows a call by the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry which claimed the cost of establishing a fleet of vehicles that complied with the law could seriously affect earnings.
Supporters of the new rule, however, accused companies of putting profit before the safety of their employees.
The ban was first mooted after a spate of serious road accidents in which workers were killed because the trucks they were being transported in overturned.
But the chamber maintained that the ban would bring half of Bahrain's construction projects to a standstill.
It said that it was an ill-conceived move that would have disastrous consequences and claimed the measure would strain companies already overburdened by costs.
The chamber also argued the measure could require some firms to buy two types of buses, adding to road congestion.
The ban was brought in to protect foreign labourers who are often transported like cattle on the back of open six-wheelers and pick-up trucks.
The Interior Ministry confirmed last Thursday that it started implementing the ban. However, drivers and owners of these trucks as well as passengers riding in them will be initially educated on the new rule, it said.
The ministry said that vehicles caught transporting workers illegally a second time would have their registration suspended for 30 days. Repeated violators face even tougher penalties, it added.
Meanwhile, the Bahrain human rights activists have expressed concern over the cabinet's decision.
Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) secretary-general Dr Abdulla Al Deerazi said it was unfortunate that the workers were abandoned again to suffer in such cold weather.
'It is very unfortunate to learn about the cabinet's decision,' he said.
'The decision was already taken by the Interior Ministry and the law was also implemented.'
'But unfortunately the wealthy community interfered and started demanding for the workers' rights to be postponed.
'I mean, look at the weather outside, it's freezing out there and we feel it while we are sitting at home with blankets and jackets, and with the heaters on.'
'The temperature dropped to eight degrees and I heard it will drop more in the next few days. Think about these poor labourers, who are being transported in open trucks.'
'It's not only the cold weather, but also during the hot days, when the workers will be suffering the scorching sun.'
'However, there could be many reasons that it has been postponed, including the global crisis, which is affecting all countries including Bahrain,' he opined.
'I hope that May will bring new hopes to these people and the government will be able to implement the decision.'
'It already has been postponed for years and companies have been making enough profit from these people. Now is the time to take action and not to listen to anyone.'
'I was so happy when the Interior Ministry went ahead with the planned implementation. I am very disappointed now, but I am still hopeful that the decision will be finalised in May without further delays.'
Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) action committee head Marietta Dias said workers, not companies, should be the top priority. 'It seems human life is lower on the priority list,' she said.
'This has been going on for a long time and it has been promised that the law will be implemented soon.'
'And when it was finally implemented, it has been postponed until May, when the labourers will have to suffer again in the summer.'
Labour Ministry occupational health and safety head Ali Abdulla Makki sai