The Complicated Scene of Bahrain’s Unionists: Major Companies Leave GFBTU Affiliates without Offices nor Representatives

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SHAFAQNA – The International Labour Organization, one of the specialized agencies of the United Nations, issued its report based on the governing body’s latest session, which was held in March 2015. The report included a section about the complaint against the Government of Bahrain presented by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), concerning the massive dismissals of members and leaders of unions over the 2011 protests, which reached more than 4,000 dismissals at the beginning of the crisis.

The ILO has greatly pressured the Bahraini regime to resolve this issue, which it oversaw itself until reaching a settlement, following a number of agreements leading up to the Supplementary Tripartite Agreement in March of 2014, upon which many of the dismissed employees were reinstated.

Despite the ILO’s decision to close the case about the complaint presented against the Bahraini government, the organization assigned the task of following up the implementation of the signed agreement to its executive committee, and invited the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions to follow up on the implementation of the Tripartite Agreement of 2012, as well as the Supplementary Tripartite Agreement of 2014.
Tripartite Agreement of 2012, as well as the Supplementary Tripartite Agreement of 2014.

As for the dismissals case, the Bahraini government claimed in its report it submitted to the organization that 99% of cases of dismissals have been resolved following the 2011 protests. The ILO; however, stated in its latest report that the committee of experts it has assigned to follow up the government’s implementation of the tripartite agreement is still closely pursuing the case.

The organization also highlighted other issues it had previously mentioned, mainly the imprisonment and torture of the president and vice-president of the Bahrain Teachers Association, Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman, and deplored that the investigations into this case have not yet been concluded by the government. It also called on the government to release Abu Dheeb.

Government enterprises wage major war against the GFBTU

In the same report, the ILO requested the Bahraini government to conduct inquiries without delay into the allegations of anti-union discrimination that affected the GFBTU and interference in trade union affairs, and also provide information on the outcome of these inquiries.

The ILO report exposed the complicated trade union situation in Bahrain, especially in major companies that are waging an organized war against trade unions affiliated to the general federation. Although this war didn’t affect the competency and efficacy of the GFBTU, nor did it snatch the limelight from the federation or mitigating its local and international role. It; however, is largely undermining the trade unions’ role within its companies. For most of the unions are without offices or even employees, not to mention that many unionists of the GFBTU have been dismissed from their jobs, in order to prevent them from performing their activities!

Companies are no longer acknowledging their original trade unions and are trying with all their might to put an end to their existence. They are also pressuring their employees into withdrawing their memberships and transfer to other unions affiliated to the Bahrain Labour Union Free Federation. As for ALBA, it is stealing the membership fees paid by members of the newly formed trade union affiliated to the general federation and offering it to the Al-Binali union, amid the silence of Bahrain’s ministry of labour.

As for allegations concerning anti-union acts, the ILO committee recalled that the Bahraini government must ensure that complaints of anti-union discrimination made by the GFBTU in its statement issued on February 14th 2013 are examined without delay and make the information regarding its findings available to the committee. The ILO, then, relisted the allegations of what it described as “anti-union acts” by a number of enterprises:

Aluminium Bahrain (ALBA):

Punitive measures have been taken by the management with respect to workers who were establishing an alternative union to the BLUFF, resulting in the dismissal of Hussain Ali Al-Radi, Vice-President of the founding committee, Abdel Menhem Ahmad Ali, Secretary, and Nader Mansour Yaakoub, founding committee member. The Ministry of Labour has refused to respond to the grievances they have made. Following the first founding Congress, the union’s Secretary-General, Yousif al Jamri, was demoted and punitive measures were taken against executive board members Abdallah Chaaban and Mohamad Achour. Membership dues continue to be transferred to the management-backed union, despite the withdrawal of 500 workers, and the management refuses to recognize and meet the trade union leaders of the newly formed union.

Bahrain Airport Services (BAS):

The company refuses to restore the check-off system for union dues, forcibly shutting the union office, unilaterally taking over the management of the savings fund, refusing to respond to GFBTU calls for dialogue and negotiation, while meeting regularly with the BLUFF-affiliated union. Yousuf Alkhaja, President of the BAS trade union, has still not been reinstated. Moreover, Governing Body member Abdullah Hussein’s airport access permit has not been renewed due to his trade union work.

Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (ASRY):

The trade union’s representation on joint committees has been cancelled, while management supports the establishment of a rival union affiliated to the BLUFF. Migrant workers have been pressured to withdraw from the GFBTU-affiliated union and affiliate with the BLUFF union.

Aluminium Rolling Mill:

The unilateral cancellation of facilities provided to the Aluminium Rolling Mill Workers’ trade union for a full-time president; management has provided support for the creation of a rival union; intimidation and pressure placed on migrant workers to withdraw from the GFBTU-affiliated union and affiliate to the rival management-supported union; favouritism towards the rival union by according free time to its president; the unilateral ending of the collective bargaining process; and the unilateral reduction of privileges obtained through collective agreements.

Bahrain Telecommunications Company (BATELCO):

The absence of dialogue on the part of the management with respect to mass dismissals; the freezing of the joint union- management committee under the pretext of confusion due to the recent trade union plurality; the unilateral withdrawal of trade union privileges; and the placing of all three unions at the workplace on an equal footing, despite the representativeness of the GFBTU.

Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO):

The management has unilaterally put in place an alternative negotiation mechanism replacing a decade-old agreed mechanism; three trade union board members remain suspended; the trade union office at Jabal Camp has been demolished; all trade union offices have been locked up by management; documents have been confiscated from the Awali office; management issued a circular calling on workers to withdraw their membership from the GFBTU-affiliated union; and all facilities previously granted to the union have been cancelled by management.

Gulf Air: The management dismissed Hussein Mehdi, the GFBTU-affiliated union board member, under the pretext that he was divulging work secrets. Management sent an email asking workers if they wanted to remain members of the GFBTU-affiliated union.

Yokogawa Middle East:

Management refuses to hold negotiation meetings with the trade union and refuses to delegate its representatives to attend a meeting with the Ministry of Labour to resolve these issues. The President of the union has been transferred and harassed in reprisal for his trade union work and he has not been granted full-time trade union status to enable him to carry out his representative functions.

Bahrain Aviation Fuelling Company (BAFCO):

The re-dismissal of the trade union president, Abdul Khaleq Abdul Hussain, occurred in January 2013, after having transferred him to a job without any specific tasks. All his attempts to rectify the situation were ignored.
The continued refusal to reinstate:

Former board member of the Banks trade union, Ayman Al Ghadban; the President of the trade union at KANOO cars, Hassan Abdul Karim; and board members of Sphynx trade union for cleaning are still dismissed.

Source : Bahrain Mirror

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