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120 staff on strike

Bahrain News
Tue, 29 Mar 2016
By Raji Unnikrishnan

Bahrain: A total of 120 workers at a cleaning company downed tools yesterday in a row over unpaid wages.

The Bangladeshis claimed they had not been paid for more than six months and their visas and CPRs had not been renewed for over a year.

The cleaners, employed by the Manama-based Star Group Company, also complained of poor living conditions.

Labour and Social Development Ministry officials registered complaints from each of the workers, at the embassy in Ghufool in the presence of diplomats yesterday.

“A labour case will be registered against the company,” ministry’s Labour Affairs Under-Secretary Sabah Al Dossary told the GDN.

“We were informed that these men have not been paid for months and their visas and other documents not legalised.

“They also complained about their accommodation in Eker having no power, water or other basic amenities.

“These are unacceptable and a clear violation of the labour law and we will be referring the case to the labour court. In the meantime, immediate measures will be taken to meet the workers’ needs.

“We have summoned the employer.”

Mr Al Dossary also said that the labour camp would be inspected.

The men initially contacted the embassy and then reached out to the Labour Market Regulatory Authority’s (LMRA) Migrant Workers’ Protection and Assistance Unit in Sehla.

However, they were directed to the Labour Ministry.

“The case relates to non-payment of wages and the Labour Ministry is the right authority to deal with the case,” said unit head Faeza Khan.

Aftab Hussain, 42, who has been with the company for six years, claimed they had no other option.

“We receive our salaries only after three to four months but this time we haven’t been paid since September,” he said.

“We have been asking our manager and our sponsor’s son for our wages, but there is no answer. 

“We decided to stop work because we are struggling without money. Besides, there is shortage of water in our accommodation.

“Moreover, our visas have expired before one year, and some of them even more, which is not being renewed.

“Some of us are without valid CPRs and our passports are with the managers.”

The workers claimed their accommodation in Eker had been without power for two weeks. 

“We don’t have water continuously in the building and there is no power for two weeks now, on two floors,” said 32-year-old Mohammed Marhoon.

“People are connecting refrigerators and table fans to electric wires extended from upper floors.

“One line supports three to four fridges and it could blow up any time, especially when we have people smoking in and around the building and throwing stubs out in the open.

“We are almost 10 people to every room, which is also a concern as the rooms are small.”

An embassy spokesman urged the community not to delay bringing such cases to the attention of the mission.

“We urge people to report the matter even when it is two months of non-payment or even a day or two without power and water,” he said.

“In this case, they waited for over six months and suddenly showed up at the embassy and all of them together.

“We are here to help them so we have taken measures to report the matter to the authorities and the case is being resolved.

“However, the employees’ relationship with the employer will not be anymore the same, which could have been avoided if they reported earlier.”

He added that the men were sent back to the accommodation, while officials will further investigate the matter today.

A company spokesman told the GDN that it was resolving the issues. 

“We have been facing a financial crisis since 2014 and currently we are in a restructuring process,” he said. 

“We have hired an international consultant who is working on our financials and management and we will be resolving this issue soon. 

“We also have an appointment with the Labour Ministry officials this week regarding this case.”

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