5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


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

Bahrain has not ratified either Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) or Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949).

In practice

Browse by:

Strike at BAPCO violently suppressed18-09-2021

Thousands of migrant workers from Nasser S. Al Hajri Corporation WLL (NSH), Gulf Asia Contracting Company LLC, and Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO) staged a nearly week-long protest in Bahrain over poor working and living conditions. There was violent reprisal from the companies’ security personnel and the police.
Workers were complaining about several issues, including unsafe working conditions, unhygienic and crowded accommodation, non-payment of wages, and substandard food. Between 1,000 and 2,000 workers, mainly from India and Nepal, initiated a strike on Tuesday 7 September after one of them allegedly had sunstroke and was hospitalised.
The strike morphed into a week-long protest when the companies’ security personnel began to intimidate and harass the workers. Some workers were severely beaten, sustaining acute injuries, including bloody bruising.
According to reports, several workers have allegedly died or fallen sick in the past months, and workers blamed the deaths and sickness on the companies’ working conditions, unhygienic accommodation and lack of safety equipment.
The exact details of what happened with the workers of NSH, Gulf Asia Contracting Company, and Bapco are still unclear. Bapco and government security personnel have been denied public access to the workers’ camp since the protest began. The workers themselves also live in an isolated area in Sitra.
The companies Nasser S. Al Hajri Corporation WLL and Gulf Asia Contracting Company LLC are both owned and operated by an Indian billionaire tycoon. NSH is one of the biggest industrial contractors in the Gulf region, specialising mainly in the oil and gas, construction, and petrochemical sectors, and has a history of abusive practices, including wage theft, non-payment of end-of-service benefits, and poor working and living conditions.

Tripartite social dialogue still difficult in Bahrain while the fate of the 2011 dismissed workers remains undecided14-01-2020

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) reports difficulties in engaging in genuine and constructive social dialogue with the government and employers. It particularly stresses that despite the tripartite agreement concluded under the aegis of the ILO with regard to the reinstatements of workers illegally fired based on their political opinion in 2011, the remaining provisions to be implemented are still not applied, including the payment of compensation for summary dismissal and the establishment of the national tripartite committee aimed at ensuring non-discrimination in employment.

Port workers pressured by management to join yellow union14-01-2020

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) reported that the Port Administration had exerted great pressure on port workers, who were members of the union operating under the umbrella of the GFBTU, to get them to join a new yellow union. Fortunately, most port workers did not give in to the threats of disciplinary measures and remained members of the independent union.

Dismissal of the Head of the Public Transport Union14-01-2020

The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions reported that in 2019, Mr Muhammad Zain Al-Din, head of the Bahrain Public Transport Union, had been summarily dismissed. A few weeks later, his right hand at the union, Mr Ahmed Al-Ansari, was also fired on dubious grounds.

Severe violations of workers’ rights at Gulf Air14-01-2020

The Gulf Air Pilots Union has been seeking official recognition for years, but authorities still refuse to proceed to its registration, thus depriving workers from representation in the company. As a result of the authorities’ refusal, Gulf Air stopped deducting membership fees from wages, despite the check-off agreement which was concluded. Both the Gulf Air Pilots Union and the Air Crew General Union are facing great financial difficulties.

The Gulf Air management also tramples workers’ right to collective bargaining, as it constantly refuses to enter into collective bargaining with the representative unions. Gulf Air went even further in denying collective bargaining by unilaterally modifying the company’s health insurance system without consulting the unions and by suspending the company’s collective agreement.

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 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.

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.

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 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 specialists and representatives of foreign trade unions, effectively preventing them from participating in GFBTU activities.

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 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.

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 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 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.

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.

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 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 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.

Striking migrant construction workers forced to leave01-07-2010

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.

© ITUC-CSI-IGB 2013 | www.ituc-csi.org | Contact Design by Pixeleyes.be - maps: jVectorMap