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Stitching up labour loopholes

BY Captain Mahmood Al Mahmood

A lawyer friend recently came across an unfortunate but familiar problem – apparently, a kind-hearted businessman approached him about a temporary worker whom he wished to make permanent.

This lady was an experienced hospitality industry worker who had come to Bahrain expecting a job in a restaurant. Unfortunately she was made to work as a domestic worker in a house and faced a lot of verbal and emotional abuse when she protested.

After six months during which she was only paid half her salary, she fled her workplace and went straight to the police station and filed a complaint about her employer and the agency which had tricked her. Unable to consider going back, she then ran away and got a break at the businessman’s restaurant.

However, when papers were filed to transfer her work visa, it was found that her former employer had reported her as a runaway worker on a date after her original complaint and so she will have to face deportation.

This seems a cruel trick to play on a hapless employee. Should not the law take into consideration that the woman reported her abusive employer to the police first and made clear her intent not to return to her original workplace?

How then can she be considered a runaway? Just like people who are flagged for not settling their phone or EWA bills or who have even bigger debts, are allowed to work and clear the debt, surely a person who has been abused at the workplace and reported it, should be allowed to work and maintain themselves with dignity without facing the meaningless wrath of the law?

Take the recent report in this paper of the tailoring shop customer who was wrongly arrested as an illegal employee – until the tailor produced a video of him trying out his newly-stitched trousers.

What if – like many women’s tailoring stores, this hops had no fitting room or the customer had chosen not to try on his trousers? He would have faces a major disruption and deportation.

Bahrain has plenty to be proud about and has strong labour laws. But we all know that the laws need continuous monitoring and tightening to remove loopholes. I hope our lawmakers pay attention to this.

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Captain Mahmood Al Mahmood is the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Tribune and the President of the Arab-African Unity Organisation for Relief, Human Rights and Counterterrorism