ITUC OnLine – July 18, 2007

Brussels, 18 July 2007 (ITUC OnLine): A new ITUC report draws attention to problems regarding trade union organising, the right to strike, discrimination and forced labour in the Gulf state of Bahrain. The report is being released today to coincide with Bahrain’s trade policy review at the WTO on 18 and 20 July.

Bahrain has not ratified either of the two ILO core Conventions on trade union rights. While some progress has been made since 2002, migrant workers, who make up roughly 60% of the workforce, have no legal protection against dismissal if they join trade unions and so in practice they very rarely join.

Workers in the public sector are still denied the right to organise. At least six public service unions have seen their registration repeatedly refused.

Another source of concern is the long list of sectors in which strikes are banned. November 2006, the government considerably lengthened the existing list by adding hydrocarbons, health, education, pharmacies and bakers to the security, civil defence, airport, port and transport sectors in which strikes are prohibited.

Bahrain has not ratified the ILO core Convention on Equal Remuneration.

Although some efforts have been made, migrant workers – who constitute 60 percent of the workforce – continue to be seriously discriminated against in virtually all aspects of employment and lack adequate legal protection. There are frequent reports of foreign women working in domestic positions, living in their sponsors’ homes and having very limited access to the outside world, being beaten or sexually abused by their employers and recruiting agents. Victims are generally too intimidated to sue their employers, even though they have the right to do so. As a result of such discrimination, according to the ITUC affiliate the GFBTU, the difference in the labour cost between a local worker and a migrant worker is often as much as 300 euros a month.

The GFBTU has demanded that all workers in the country, irrespective of origin, must be paid the minimum wage.

The number of foreign workers being forced to work is another source of great concern. The most common forms of trafficking in human beings involve unskilled construction labourers and domestic workers.

To see the full report click here.