Thousands of workers hope Bahraini government will finally act on wage hike


Workers banded under the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Labour will gather anew tomorrow for the annual workers’ honouring day rites.

Awards will be presented to around 280 Bahraini workers commending them for their role as workers, to bring alive the spirit of Labour Day.

But for many ordinary workers like Mehdi Mohammed, there is little to celebrate about the day.

They feel that the hard times are just beginning.

“The day hardly means anything to me and that goes I believe for many workers. I don’t think many would even know about the significance of Labour Day,” he said.
Already 42 with three children to raise, Mehdi works as a security guard for a hotel and restaurant company with a monthly salary of BD180.

Like other workers, he pines for one important thing that they would hope to have as a gift on Labour Day – increased wages.

“No family can be fed entirely with BD180. It is too small and the prices are rising,” he said.

Over the past week, the Ministry of Labour had signed deals with companies to ensure that no Bahraini would be receiving less than BD200.

Many companies agree to the suggested basic pay scale being pushed by the Labour Ministry but not many workers and union leaders are too happy about what they claim to be a mere token increase.

“Wages have always been the core issue. The workers do not want minimal increases, they want something more to help their families,” said Jamal Ateeq, a GFBTU committee official.

Lowly paid workers from both the public and private sector had joined the clamour for better wages over the past year.
Despite the fact that there is still no sweeping minimum wage act, the government had set a BD200 base pay for government and private sector workers. But the workers wanted more – at least BD300 to stay above the poverty line.

The condition of many expatriate workers are even worse. Many of them, especially laboures for construction companies, receive meager salaries ranging between BD60 to BD80 a month.

Other worker categories, like household workers, still earn within the range of BD40 to BD50 a month.

Bahrain has an estimated 300,000 workforce, more than 60 per cent of these are expatriates.

“The workers hope that the government will hear their grievances. They will do everything and are ready to lobby their case even to the Parliament,” said Jaffar Khalil, also a GFBTU committee member.

Tomorrow, hundreds of workers are expected to join a march to the Parliament building to ask for better wages.

GFBTU officials say it will be a peaceful rally but their march is definitely in sharp contrast to the government-backed workers day rites in the morning.

“How long can we wait. If Bahrain had truly progressed and our economy has grown then it is time that the wages be raised. The government must act,” Mehdi said.


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