Tag Archives labour

Redressing the wronged employees

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In this country, over a thousand have been dismissed from their positions for doing nothing other than expressing their opinions. Quite a number were fired for simply being Shi’a. My head just cannot get around this. Disregard, for the moment, the fact the as many households have been disadvantaged directly due to this despicable practice, how on earth do those who have ordered this heinous crime to be committed and those who condoned such collective punishment dream of this helping their cause, let alone the country as a whole? And how can others expect that with just another stroke of the pen that the damage will be contained and things will go back to normal? How can they ever think that the poisoned and poisonous atmospheres which have been created ever be effective again without the root causes be addressed first?

Yes, the king has ordered those dismissed to be re-instated. Apart from the fact that his order being ignored initially, then very reluctantly implemented with various conditions and reservations attached, people who have gone back found that they were forced into different – sometimes menial – positions and they have had to accept and sign humiliating contracts and accept the loss of back-pay as well as rescind any labour or court cases they might have raised against their employers.

The question is: did those who’ve dreamt up this revengeful scheme ever think that they would be allowed to get away with it? Did they mistake the times we’re living in to be medieval with disconnected fiefdoms and whatever they as overlords wish shall be done with alacrity and without any consequences?

If they have – and it appears that some certainly did – then the life they’re living is an isolated one in their own minds, and is of their own making.

How can this mess be fixed now?

If the offered fixes follow the perennial methods which treat symptoms rather than the causes, then their efficacy will be wanting. Nothing other than addressing root causes will work; the legal employment structure must be re-examined especially in the public sector, and I suggest the heads of the Civil Service Bureau be relieved of their duties for not standing up for their employees in the first instance. Second, adequate compensation for the wrongful dismissals and for the trauma those actions have caused and most importantly those responsible for giving out those despicable orders and their attached witch-hunting committees must be held to account, publicly. They have done untold damage to this country and its society. As such, they must be penalized and made example of so that this abrogation of responsibility and revengeful and criminal behaviour is never allowed to happen again.

Resolution won’t happen until these matters are adequately and ethically addressed.


Bahrain’s Shame

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I love it when our enlightened officials use the severely broken record of “we’re a democracy” while they literally sign off on the destitution of their own countrymen for daring to exercise their democratic rights. To add insult to injury, even when the land’s King orders, orders their re-instatement, they completely ignore that royal order as if it’s not important and not worth of the slightest consideration. What and whom are they following exactly to be this belligerent?

So far, according to (a much rejuvenated Al-Wasat) 2,593 have been unfairly fired. I say and emphasize the word unfairly as the only reason for losing their jobs was due to their exercising of one of their basic human rights. 2,593 from 199 companies and the public sector. 1,643 from eight entities who have trampled their very own lifelines, their employees in a race the end result of which is to ensure the starvation of the largest amount of families of their compatriots as possible! Those who have excelled at this vocation are now inducted in a particular hall of shame that Bahrain will never forget. That hall of shame belongs to ALBA, Bapco, Ministry of Health, Gulf Air, Batelco, Ministry of Education, Khalifa Port and the Ministry of Municipalities all of whom account for the misery of 63% of all of those unfairly dismissed.

Put in another perspective, according to the secretary general of the Bahrain Labour Unions those despicable 199 entities are directly responsible for the hardships that 13,000 Bahrainis find themselves in with their breadwinners out of a job.

What the hell are they thinking?

Doctors, engineers, teachers, tradesmen and a plethora of other worthy individuals are out of jobs. Do those companies not have any balls whatsoever as to stand their ground and refuse to enact orders relayed by midnight callers? Ok, we know that they don’t, they’re afraid for their own positions and benefits, but why the mad chest beating rush and which-hunts? Don’t they realize the extreme damage that this situation can do to the health of their own companies? What would the remaining employees think of the company and its management? I bet that every single employee within those despicable entities cannot help but think that their own turn will come! It might not be for the same reasons, but if they see that other employees are so summarily and unfairly dumped, regardless of their length of service nor their deserved excellent local and international reputations, how easy would it be to dispense with them too? And for whatever infantile and ludicrous reason?

For those who are dancing on their co-workers’ graves, those who snitched, poked and stabbed their own brothers and sisters to be put in the literal firing line, where is your humanity? Where is your dignity? Where is your self-worth?

13,000 of my countrymen are at the risk of missed opportunities and continuous nightmares for doing nothing but expressing their views.

Know this; though, I bet that when they get used to the nightmares they will turn into a more belligerent and more extreme force that might very well rock the country, even more than what it’s at now, and those 199 entities as well as the government who is complicit in this, are directly responsible for this phenomenon. So thank you for destroying yet another generation.

What’s to be done, then? Like other great events in history, this is the time for a brave and responsible man to stand and take the helm. That man should not wait it out, because time now is the mortal enemy. The future of this country and its people are hanging in the balance and only strong, just and resolute decisions will rescue this country from the brink. This is where actual and much needed political, financial, labour, education and societal reform starts. And they all need a strong man with vision who is not afraid to step up on deck and take the helm in story seas. That journey is long and hard and won’t resolve overnight. But the country and its future children deserve the trouble.

To those 199 entities and the witch hunters. Your legacy will be shame, and you will be forgotten. Parasites that you are.


Pulling out, and it’s about time

I applaud the Indonesian government for doing something concrete to protect their citizens, even resorting to a ban against some Middle Eastern countries form employing them owing to the various abuses they suffered from.

I wonder if other labour exporters will do likewise. And if they do, I think we will be in the centre of an economic implosion that will undoubtedly rival and surpass the one which the world is attempting to climb out of.

Indonesia hits Arab states with worker ban

Indonesia is to repatriate around 1,750 nationals working in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan and place a ban on its citizens working in these countries due to mistreatment, its manpower minister said in remarks published on Tuesday.

“At least 1,750 migrant workers employed in the Middle East will be repatriated and for this purpose the government will send aircraft to the Middle East starting on November 9,” Muhaimin Iskandar was quoted as saying by the Indonesian News Agency (Antara).

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Iskandar said there were numerous instances of workers were not being paid and suffering physical abuse.

“Indonesians in these countries are working in appalling conditions because they are not being treated justly. Many of them become victims of violence and live in conditions below minimum welfare standards,” he said.

“In some of the Middle Eastern countries, the rate of violations by employers against migrant workers is quite high,” he added.

Iskandar said the government plans to strengthen its recruitment procedures for citizens going abroad, including the protection of workers’ rights.

“Improvements will in the first place have to be made in the recruitment and training systems, provision of health services, transportation to airports and eventually in the workers` protection in destination countries to prevent the recurrence of abuses,” he said.


The abduction of the Bahraini businessperson

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LMRA BahrainI thought that come July 1st, Bahraini companies could hire and fire at will – well, within reason – and essentially hire whom they need to grow, rather than who are foisted upon them simply to make their quota with Bahraini workers. Well, I think I might have been mistaken:

Come July 1, employers in Bahrain would have to recruit two Bahrainis for each five expatriates or risk facing action, including termination or rejection of work permits.

The move under the Labour Market Regulatory Law focuses on empowering Bahrainis in the labour market through the implementation of an advance system that rejects work permits of companies that do not employ the required number of Bahraini workers.

The Executive Chairman of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), Ali Radhi, said that the law would also ban termination or suspension of services of Bahrainis without valid reasons.
Khaleej Times

What’s going on here? Where did all the talk of a “free labour market” go? Now employers have even more limits than the era before the LMRA? Or have I completely missed the plot here?

I understood that as long as you pay the LMRA imposed taxes, you could hire whomever you want! What the linked article suggests is contrary to that, in fact it goes even further in not only limiting the number of people you want to employ by paying the required fees, but you’ve got to do that AND hire 40% of your workforce as Bahrainis, regardless – it seems – of what they know and if you actually need them.


Chicken for lunch?

I’m not sure what those “guest workers” are complaining about. Really. They just hear a rumour by the Indian Ambassador that his country is planning a minimum wage for their citizens working in the Gulf for BD100 ($265) a month, and they automatically think that they should be included in that new criteria. Not only that, they mistakenly assume that as they are working on multi-billion Dollar projects, they think that their contractors – their benefactors – whom they wrongfully accuse of enslaving them and who make no qualms of reiterating that status in their provision of comfy accommodation complete with amenities, could actually afford to raise their wages! I think they just conveniently forget that they have already agreed to their BD57 dinars ($150) a month they legally – and I stress – legally signed in India or wherever they were recruited from. And come on, they don’t know much business, do they? Budgets have long been set and any variation would actually kill the poor downtrodden contractors!

Blah. Those people are never satisfied. I mean, just look at how well they are treated! They are even given wholesome and well prepared chicken for lunch!

Pissing on the chicken tenderises them for cooking… yum!

Don’t these people realise that some Arabs in our beloved Arab World still cannot afford the luxury of meat for their daily diet? I’ve heard that some even run after the zoo animals’ feed carts crying “feed us meat, feed us meat, we want meat” and fight even lions for the privilege. Roman gladiators would be impressed, I tell you.

Regardless, I join Mr. Sameer Nass, the chairman of the Construction Committee at the Chamber of Commerce who rightly says: “This will not do“. I agree with him, all of those rabble rousers should be sent home, carted off in a ship and dumped at the closest port of call in their countries of origin. That will teach them. Way above their station, they are. They should know that we could easily import labour from other and more deserving places in the world whom we will undoubtedly shower with our largess. Isn’t some Gulf countries already negotiating with Vietnam and parts of Africa for labour? Africa should be easy really, we’ve had hundreds of years of experience in that continent, but Vietnam I’m not too sure of. Other than them soundly defeating the Americans, I don’t know much about them, but that should make them a bit more of a “security risk,” I should think, but seeing as how our intelligence community actually assisted the Thais where our boys “provide accurate information on the continuing insurgency in the three Thai southern provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat“, we do do our homework and that security risk shouldn’t be an issue, considering how far our intelligence tentacles reach!

Contingency planning, which shows our complete preparedness for any eventuality, does not stop at finding alternate sources for manual labourers, of course, witness the 3,000 Thai nurses being trained in Bangkok and who will be deployed here soon. I’m not sure what they will be trained in; however, but whatever it is, I hope they also provided tested prophylactics as some of those Thais have been found blasé about their use; hence, suffer the indignity of being sent home with our material thanks in them. We should welcome them regardless of course, especially as it seems that our ungrateful local nurses seem to want to tread the same route as those unwelcome guest workers.


The Cultural Tsunami is coming

Bahrain labour minister warns of ‘Asian tsunami’

A Bahraini minister has warned of an “Asian tsunami” because of the reliance of “lazy” Gulf Arabs on foreign labour to carry out even the simplest tasks, in an interview published on Sunday.

Labour Minister Majid al-Alawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the presence of almost 17 million foreign workers in the Gulf, mostly from the Asian sub-continent, represented “a danger worse than the atomic bomb or an Israeli attack”.

“I am not exaggerating that the number will reach almost 30 million in ten years from now,” he told the pan-Arab daily.

Alawi has called for the residency of foreign workers in the oil-rich Gulf states to be limited to six years but the leadership of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council has not followed up on the proposal.

“The commercial lobby in the Gulf thwarted the project which was in the final phases before being implemented,” he said.

Alawi said that Gulf nationals were “lazy” and “spoilt”, relying on imported labour for the simplest of tasks.

“A lord with billions in Great Britain cleans his own car on a Sunday morning, whereas people of the Gulf look for someone to hand them a glass of water from just a couple of metres away,” he said.

“If the Gulf governments do not watch out for this tsunami of foreign labourers, the fate of this region is very worrying,” he said.

In October, Alawi called for the Gulf’s “sponsonship” system to be abandoned, saying it left foreign workers at the mercy of the individuals or institutions which employ them.

He called for government to oversee visas and work permits to protect the rights of foreign workers, in a region which human rights organisations have often accused of abusing employees in slave-like conditions.
AFP – 28 Jan, ’08

There you have it. It’s official. We – the Arabs – are lazy, greedy and incompetent. Said by the sitting Minister of Labour. The same minister who had his plans to limit the expatriate entry-level worker’s presence in the Gulf to a maximum of 6 years thwarted rather spectacularly by the Board of Directors of the Arabian Gulf.

The passion which was evident in his 6-year-stint plan has not left him, in fact he is now passionately warning of another ‘Asian Tsunami’ which will result in a complete demographic change in these countries. In his latest salvo, it is akin to him gleefully poking eyes and saying ‘I told you so’.

Mansour Al-Jamri, the editor of Al-Wasat in Bahrain agrees with him. In his column this morning, he outlines the legitimate danger [translate] this situation can result in. Al-Jamri suggests that foreign labour we customarily have and as their visas suggest, should not be classified as temporary due to their semi-permanence in our communities. He contends that what we really have is full-scale emigration. And this, denotes the possibility of them soon demanding their human and political rights.

Dubai Labourers with a local in the foregroundWhether we like it or not, international conventions give them those rights. After all, quite a lot of them have already surpassed the requirements to gain the citizenship in the country they chose to work in even by using local constitutions and laws.

When this happens, a big political problem will occur for our communities. This concerted and sudden demographic change left unchecked and uncontrolled will lead to social disharmony at the very least. In Bahrain, we are already experiencing this phenomenon with the supposed “immoral” naturalizations.

What’s the solution then? Just stop development and force a cultural change in the community to be more productive and less dependent? Of course not. A raft of changes must be adopted to change our way of life; inclusive rule, transparency and accountability will go a long way into forming a new society and even a new culture. Social responsibility will prevail and hopefully these problems will slowly come under control.

Whatever the proposed solutions; however, citizens must buy into them for them to have a chance of success. Unfortunately with the prevalent feeling of disenfranchisement that a lot of our fellow citizens feel, this new utopia will not materialise even with the promise of them ultimately being better off. Just like most people, they are concerned with the here and now, rather than accede to medium or longer term panaceas to these problems.

Without a real intrinsic structural and courageous change, the situation might spin completely out of control and the Gulf Arab will be completely marginalised. As Al-Jamri suggests, it is not too far fetched to have India exerting its major power in our countries by proxy. It will apply inordinate political and cultural influence by virtue of the millions of its citizens gaining citizenships, or even just continuing to live and work in our countries without any measure of control and without investing in the local population’s education and rehabilitation. Al-Jamri suggests that India’s political influence might well develop into making our countries a part of a “Commonwealth of India” soon, as its former citizens will gain positions of responsibility in both private and public sectors, even rising to ministerial positions within the Cabinet.

The situation is quite serious. Since 2005, Bahrain’s population has increased from 720k to over 1 million (if the CIO’s figures are to be believed). Foreigners have risen from 38% to 49% of the population. With the limited resources that Bahrain has, and more importantly, with the haphazard and unstudied policies we seem to be adopting, Bahrain most definitely will be at the forefront of Dr. Majid Al-Alawi’s tsunami.


The Plinth

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A couple of things I really came to appreciate today: the first is the wealth of information available on the Internet, again, and the second is those manual labourers who we continuously take for granted!

The story is this: I wanted to build a regular red-brick column/plinth in the Zen Garden onto which I would place my newly acquired Buddha. I brought a builder to survey the site this morning and he quoted me a reasonable labour charge of BD30 (about $110) for the complete job without materials. He also agreed that he would finish the job in one day, but I thought I could do the thing on my own, not to save money, but because I thought it would be simple enough.

That brings me to the appreciation of the Internet as a simple Google search presented me with this article which included a video and sufficiently explained what needed to be done. Simple enough and convinced even more that I could take up the job on my own, I came home and started working on the plinth with the aid of my son Arif, bless him. He got to appreciate that being wrenched from in front of a TV is not a very nice experience!

The plinth foundation

Following the instructions, I built a 50cm square wooden frame, dug a hole to accommodate the frame at at a depth of approximately 50cm, mixed the cement and filled in the frame to create the base. That was a simple enough process to do, what wasn’t is the time-factor. It took us about 90 minutes to accomplish this simple task and the amount of intensive labour required was unexpected. I didn’t think that simply mixing the sand and cement to make sludge was that back-breaking. Nor did I expect that wet cement was that heavy either!

Anyway, we finished the task by nightfall and I am leaving it now to set and solidify. Hopefully tomorrow or the day after I can start laying the bricks to create the actual plinth. I should finish the job completely and take a few pictures to show you the new addition to the Zen Garden by the weekend.



Worker's shoes

Shoes, originally uploaded by malyousif.

While most of us are enjoying our weekends, let’s spare a moment to think of those who continue to struggle to eek out a living.

Have a wonderful Friday.

and I wish all my American friends a very happy Labour Day!