The ITUC affiliate in Bahrain is the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU).

In practice

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While the tripartite committee was able to reinstate a significant number of all dismissed workers who participated in pro-democracy demonstrations, according to the GFBTU, as many as 657 workers have still not been reinstated since the 2011 events, including trade union leaders. Furthermore, among those reinstated, some were rehired with inferior conditions and job statuses and on lower pay to those jobs they held prior to their dismissal.

On 21 October 2011, the Court of Appeal upheld the guilty verdict issued against the BTA leaders on 25 September 2011 for allegedly attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force and inciting hatred of the regime. The prison sentences were reduced to five years for Mahdi Abu Dheeb and six months for Jalila al-Salman. The lawyers of the BTA leaders filed an objection to the Supreme Court regarding the verdict.

On 7 November 2012, Jalila al-Salman, who had been released on bail, was summoned without explanation to the Investigation Department in Manama to serve the remaining time of her 6-month prison term. She was transferred to the Isa Town Women’s Prison. Her lawyer and family were not allowed to accompany or contact her. Jalila al-Salman was finally released from prison on 25 November after serving her prison term. Mahdi Abu Dheeb is still serving a 5-year prison term. A final appeal is still pending.

Reliable reports indicate that both Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman were tortured in detention. Dheeb is also suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as heart and stomach problems.

It is believed that the government has recently backed the creation of an alternative and rival federation, Bahrain Labour Union Free Federation (BLUFF), to undermine the GFBTU as a legitimate, representative and democratic organisation. The BLUFF leadership, with a number of pro-government columnists and pro-government parliament members; has been spearheading a fierce defamation campaign against the GFBTU. These campaigns have accused the GFBTU leadership of treason, defaming Bahrain’s image, and of being led by a foreign agenda. Recently, the BLUFF organised a rally outside a UN building in which the GFBTU, ITUC and ILO were denounced. In some cases, collective bargaining with GFBTU affiliates has been stopped without justification and been replaced by negotiations with management-backed trade unions.

Workers who had participated in the “Pearl Roundabout protests” have been systematically dismissed by their employers. The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) stated that employers are refusing to reinstate workers under their previous contracts but are instead forcing them to sign new contracts.

All public financial support for the GFBTU was stopped, while the Chamber of Commerce and the Bahraini employers’ association continue to receive funding. A total of 55 GFBTU trade union leaders have been dismissed.

On 1 May 2012, riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades at World Labour Day protesters in Manama as they demanded the release of the jailed leaders of the 2011 uprising.

Mahdi Issa Abu Dheeb and Jalila Al-Salman, from the Bahraini Teachers Association (BTA), were arrested in 2011 for participating in pro-democracy demonstrations. They remain in detention.

Hundreds of construction workers went on a two-day strike at the start of July to protest underpayment and poor living conditions. The strike was called off after the strike leaders reportedly agreed to leave Bahrain and return home. The company director said that 10 men who had been “instigating the workers” to strike had agreed to voluntarily leave the country and return home while complaints about living conditions, wages and overtime would be looked into. However, the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society stated that the men had feared they were made into scapegoats and would be victimised if they stayed at work, so they had little choice but to accept repatriation despite their right to protest.

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