5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Bahrain

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

In practice

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Dismissal of union leaders in major companies16-02-2018

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) reports that the secretaries and deputies of the PublicTransport Compnay and Carrefour were fired for their trade union activities.

Major companies refuse to negotiate with unions16-02-2018

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) reports that a number of major companies in Bahrain have refused to initiate negotiations with unions, despite the existence of collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
mechanisms set up in each company, including Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. (Alba), the Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard, Batelco, the Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco), Gulf Air, Gulf Aluminium Rolling Mill (Garmco), DHL and the Bahrain Airport Services. Garmco even started negotiating directly with workers instead of union representatives.

Collection of union dues blocked by Aluminium Bahrain 16-02-2018

The management of Aluminium Bahrain B.S.C. (Alba) has persistently refused to allow the direct collection of union dues from workers’ salaries since the formation of the company-level union in 2013.

Retaliatory measures against workers joining the GFBTU 16-02-2018

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) reports that the Gulf Aluminium Rolling Mill (Garmco) and DHL have threatened workers who joined the GFBTU with retaliatory measures. Garmco even suspended benefits for ten workers because of their GFBTU membership.

Union favouritism16-02-2018

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) reports that the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) rejected the establishment of a union supported by the GFBTU but accepted the creation of another which was promoted by the Bahrain Labour Union Free Federation (BLUFF).

Trade unionists dismissed over wage arrear claims03-10-2017

On 3 October 2017 a company dismissed all trade union representatives along with 35 other Bahraini workers following a complaint lodged before the Minister of Labour concerning the payment of seven months wage arrears. Following pressure by the Ministry of Labour, the company paid five months arrears to 40 Bahraini workers, while dismissing 35 Bahraini workers and all trade union representatives. A representative of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) indicated that the company had paid the outstanding wages only after a court ruled to ban the CEO of the company from travelling. This led to a meeting in the presence of the Ministry representatives. Although a partial agreement was reached, the company arbitrarily dismissed trade unionists and refused to consider the Ministry of Labour as a sponsor of the agreement and to pay the outstanding wage arrears.

Trade unions’ delegation banned from participating in the International Labour Conference (ILC)26-11-2017

On 3 June 2017 the authorities at the Bahrain International Airport prevented a delegation from the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) from traveling to Geneva to participate in the work of 106th session of International Labour Conference. Although GFBTU had communicated the names of its delegates to the Ministry of Labour in line with the customary procedure, the authorities refused access to boarding but did not give any reason behind this arbitrary decision. Subsequently, on 6 November and 26 November 2017, the GFBTU Deputy Secretary-General was banned from traveling to an international trade union meeting in Muscat, Oman, and to the Building and Wood Worker’s International (BWI) Conference in South Africa. No justification was given by the authorities. The government also denied entry visas to ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
specialists and representatives of foreign trade unions, effectively preventing them from participating in GFBTU activities.

Trade union representative and his son attacked09-05-2017

On 9 May 2017 former Secretary-General of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), Mr Salman Al-Mahfouz, and his son were attacked. The rear window of Mr Al-Mahfouz’s car was smashed by an unknown individual while it was parked in front of his house in Sar area, while the car of his son, Mr Louai, was burned. The police are investigating but the perpetrators remain unknown.

1st May march banned01-05-2017

Following a decision issued by the Ministry of Interior, the 2017 May Day procession was banned. In a press statement, the Secretary General of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), Hassan Halwachi, deeply regretted this ban on freedom of assembly. He noted that while the GFBTU abided by the decision, “it [was] important to say that depriving workers of organizing the march [had] a negative impact not only on the trade union and labour movement but also on the economy of the country.”

Trade unions activists locked up and arrested17-04-2017

Since April 2017, Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al Salman, respectively President and Vice-President of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA), have been subject to house arrest and travel restrictions, effectively preventing them from heading the BTA and attending international conferences. Mahdi was released from prison in 2016 after being locked up in 2011 simply for demanding reforms to the Bahraini education system. In prison, he was subjected to repeated physical abuse and torture. Jalila was also detained and tortured by the authorities. Mahdi received the NASUWT’s International Solidarity Award 2017 and along with Jalila, he attended the NASUWT Annual Conference on 15 April 2017 in Manchester (UK). Upon their return to Bahrain, they were informed of the arbitrary restrictions to their freedom of movement. These unjustifiable restrictions prevent them from carrying out their activities for the BTA, which is an internationally recognised and respected organisation.

Indian worker dies in Bahrain during protest15-01-2017

On 15 January 2017, approximately 200 migrant workers staged a protest demanding the payment of wage arrears. Protesting workers were violently beaten by police officers, causing an unknown number of injured and one dead. Following the incident, Bahrain and India held urgent consultations to defuse the situation. However, Bahrain Ministers refused to acknowledge that the death was caused by police intervention in the protest, stating that the Indian national died of natural causes. This horrible incident was one in a long line of violations of human and labour rights in the Gulf country, which caused prolonged unrest among Indian workers. Furthermore, it occurred at a particularly delicate time, one week after the celebration in India of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas festival, which honours Indians living abroad.

Ports union leader dismissed11-11-2015

Khalil Ibrahim Fardan, president of the General Union of Port Workers in Bahrain (GUPWB), was dismissed on 11 November by APM Terminals, Bahrain. The company claimed his dismissal was due to “work practices” but Mr. Fardan had been previous targeted by the company due to his trade union work, and the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) believed that his dismissal was aimed at preventing him performing his role as a union leader. The International Federation of Transport Workers (ITF) met with the company’s management a week later to try to overturn the decision, but to no avail.

Teachers’ union still facing repression04-04-2016

Jalila al-Salman, vice-president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA), warns that teachers can no longer carry out union activities as they used to ever since a crackdown on the union in 2011. She and Mahdi Abu Dheeb, president of the BTA, were both imprisoned in 2011 for organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. strikes by teachers, and were tortured and humiliated in prison. Jalila was released after six months but is banned from working as teacher and her freedom of speech is heavily curtailed. She was however allowed to travel to Norway in June 2015 to receive the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights, awarded annually by Industri Energi, a Norwegian trade union. Mahdi Abu Dheeb, who had been sentenced to five years, was unable to join her because he was still in prison at the time. He was finally released on 4 April 2016, but his health has suffered as a consequence. In the meantime, the situation has not improved for teachers who face punishment simply for trying to enter into collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
according to Jalila. Teachers can be transferred from their workplace simply for belonging to the BTA or if the authorities suspect that the union might help them.

May Day celebrations banned30-04-2015

On 30 April 2015 the government banned all May Day rallies, forcing the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) to abruptly cancel its weekend celebrations. The federation had planned a rally, medical camps, family outings and award ceremonies focusing on the rights of women and migrant workers in the workplace. Thousands were expected to attend the rally, including members of more than 45 GFBTU-affiliated trade unions.

Migrant workers threatened with deportation09-02-2015

In June 2014, about 2,000 workers employed at the garment factory Riffa, which produces clothing for brands such as Macy’s, C&A, GAP, JC Penney and Walmart, went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
against low and unpaid wages as well as poor working conditions. Workers, mostly from India and Bangladesh, gathered at the company’s factory in Hajiyat and submitted 12 demands calling for better pay, food and medical care. Currently, workers earn about BD55 (US$ 145) a month. The Labour Ministry issued a statement declaring the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
illegal and announced that legal action, including deportation, would be undertaken against workers who refused to return to work.

Workers have not been reinstated12-08-2013

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.

Union leaders in jail25-11-2012

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.

Acts of interference by the government12-08-2013

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 International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
were denounced. In some cases, collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
with GFBTU affiliates has been stopped without justification and been replaced by negotiations with management-backed trade unions.

Infringement of basic rights and anti-union discrimination12-08-2013

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.

Striking migrant construction workers forced to leave01-07-2010

Hundreds of construction workers went on a two-day strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
at the start of July to protest underpayment and poor living conditions. The strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
was called off after the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat 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 strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat 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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