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New panel to tackle wages dispute at construction firm

Bahrain News
Tue, 17 Apr 2018
By Raji Unnikrishnan


ANOTHER ministerial committee will be formed to further negotiate non-payment issues at a construction firm in Bahrain, it has emerged.

The decision taken yesterday by top officials at the Labour and Social Development Ministry following a protest by around 50 former Bahraini employees of G P Zachariades (GPZ) who gathered outside the ministry complex in Zayed Town.

They are among 100 people who were terminated in November as part of a downsizing plan on condition that they would be compensated, however, they still have not received their pending wages.

Protest

The protest was held as the ministry launched a two-day job fair yesterday featuring vacancies in the education sector.

“They protested when Minister (Jameel Humaidan) and other VIPs were here to open the job fair,” said Ministry Under-Secretary Sabah Al Doseri.

“I assume that they wanted to get attention, and we assured them that the government is following up the GPZ issue on a daily basis.

“Unfortunately, the agreements made with the company were not honoured and the (GPZ) headquarters is in Cyprus, which is one of the legal limitations we face.

“We are trying to help them get the money from the contractors who owe them and in the minister’s presence we decided to form one more committee to re-engage the negotiations with GPZ.

“We are optimistic that things will be positive in the coming weeks.”

The GDN reported on March 12 that senior management of GPZ were summoned following a protest by the company’s expatriate employees. A total of 120 Indian and Bangladeshi employees marched to the ministry complex and staged a three-hour protest.

The expat workers have reportedly been awaiting repatriation since November.

“We are also aware of the expats who are still not paid – the ministry doesn’t differentiate between citizens and residents,” added Mr Al Doseri yesterday.

“We hope the new committee will be able to come to a final solution to the issue.

“We don’t want to take the matter to court as it could delay the solution.”

GPZ has been at the centre of a pay row since 2016, and is among the firms being monitored by the International Labour Organisation for repeated failure to pay its staff.

One former employee, who took part in the protest yesterday, said the staff were owed several months’ worth of wages even before the downsizing was carried out.

“We were terminated on condition that we will be compensated,” he told the GDN on the condition of anonymity.

Wait

“Since November we are waiting and most of us are without jobs, struggling to provide for our families.

“It is unfair that the government is silent about the situation.”

Employees have staged numerous protests in the past and one of them even suffered a heart attack and died during a demonstration outside the company’s office in Nuwaidrat in January last year.

GPZ officials did not respond to the GDN yesterday.

raji@gdn.com.bh

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