Cementing Bahrain workers’ right in place
By Captain Mahmood Al Mahmood
Despite our Ministry of Labour’s best efforts, the latest Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) statistics show that Bahrainis make up just 12,000 of an estimated 166,000 workers in the construction sector.
That means this sector which underpins our efforts to expand infrastructure and stimulate the economy is manned largely by foreign workers, mainly from Asia.
Nobody is really protesting about this because construction sites are intemperate and dirty places and most Bahraini families don’t want their children to work there. They would rather that their sons and daughters work in air-conditioned cabins as engineers, architects or administrators.
Nothing wrong there – we all want the best for our children, after all.
But because of this lack of nationals in construction field jobs, it also means that Bahrainis are not too fussy about conditions in the industry.
True, the government has several firsts to its credit when it comes to imposing and improving safety standards – the prevention of dangerous open-truck transportation to work sites, for example, or the strict imposition of summer work hours to avoid the worst of the afternoon sun are excellent moves.
But what about investing in state-of-the-art methodologies and equipment that will make the industry simply less physically taxing, less of a drudge? I have heard terrifying stories of men who came to Bahrain to take up jobs as tailors and were instead put up on a scaffolding three stories from ground level at a construction site with no prior training or choice.
It happens all over the world and Bahrain is no exception.
There is talk of unionising the workers of the industry with our very own Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and GFBTU, the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) which is a global union federation and the ILO.
This coming together of local and international rights groups will undoubtedly cement workers’ rights and elevate the quality of work and of the entire construction industry, making it a workplace of choice for the coming generation of Bahrainis.
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