AN online petition has been launched in support of construction workers who have not been paid for almost a year.
A total of ___ people signed the petition since its launch on Monday to appeal to G P Zachariades Civil Engineering and Contractors (GPZ), a firm in the midst of a pay dispute since last November.
In the appeal titled ‘Pending Salary of Staff and Workers from GPZ Bahrain’ on gopetition.com, unpaid employees have been cited as living like “stray dogs”.
The petition urges the government and international agencies to interfere and “to use their powers and influence to force” the company to pay its employees.
“The Labour (and Social Development) Ministry is involved but nothing seems to be happening, people are laid off from jobs and are living in terrible condition in the labour camps like stray dogs,” stated the petition.
“They have no jobs, they have no monthly income, their visas have expired and some are just waiting to receive tickets to return back home.
“Their life is terrible here and no one seems to be helping them.”
A former employee told the GDN on the condition of anonymity that they were promised the issue would be resolved by this month.
“During a meeting with our representatives on September 19, labour officials in the presence of GPZ and representatives from the Indian and Philippines embassies said they will make sure that we get paid within three months if not then six months,” he said.
“At the meeting, a senior labour official put forward a condition to our representatives that he will personally ensure that we are paid provided that we do not approach the media.
“There was also an agreement that there will be follow-up meetings every month until we are paid, but last month we went twice for a meeting that was called off as GPZ and Indian Embassy officials did not come.
“(This is why) we think it is time we raise our voices through media because when the matter was live on media we were treated with respect by all officials concerned.”
However, a GPZ representative dismissed the allegations and urged former staff members to be patient for six months.
“As per an agreement reached with representatives of the exited staff as well as the Labour (and Social Development) Ministry and respective embassies, all exited staff should extend their patience for a period of up to six months,” the representative told the GDN.
“Only once a meeting was called off but later on rescheduled with labour officials where we have submitted all requested documents.
“The last group of 32 workers who were waiting their settlement and repatriation received their entitlements on November 7 in the presence of labour officials and are set to be repatriated over the next few days.
“GPZ is fully supported by major banks with which it has been co-operating with for several decades, and is looking forward to winning new contracts based on the support of such banks and is also negotiating a seven-year debt restructuring plan with the banks in order to offset the impact of outstanding payments from projects completed during the past five years.”
Ministry officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Indian Embassy First Secretary Meera Sisodia told the GDN yesterday that the issue of GPZ employees was “already under active consideration by all concerned”.
She earlier confirmed that recruitment of workers from India by GPZ had been stopped, after the unpaid wages issue was brought to light in November.
The GDN reported on October 5 that GPZ denied being “blacklisted” by the Bahrain government, as cited by Labour and Social Development Ministry Under-Secretary Sabah Al Doseri.
It also dismissed claims it was risking its contract with the Bahrain International Airport expansion project.
In June, GPZ paid 175 Bahrainis and 600 expatriates after authorities stepped in to end the crisis. That followed months of protests by employees, one of whom suffered a heart attack and died during a demonstration outside the company’s office in Nuwaidrat in January.