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Bahrain’s soft-headed tough talk

February 27, 2008 10:00 by

After a month of strikes and worker unrest, Bahrain now says it will immediately deport any foreign laborers who unjustifiably refuse to work. The labor ministry will make sure new visas are lined up to get in replacement workers, asap.

Tough talk, and understandable given how the situation has run away from the Bahrain construction sector (and government). The unrest has been blamed on India announcing all unskilled Indian workers in Bahrain must now be on a minimum of BD100 a month. Many construction workers, lucky to be on half of that, have taken this as a sign to strike for better pay and conditions.

But there are problems with mass deportations. Firstly, define unjustifiable. Will workers be given a chance to prove what is, or isn’t, unjustifiable? I doubt it. Is the government suggesting there is a pool of replacement workers ready to board a plane as soon as the shirkers depart?

Such deportations are a nonsense. They do nothing for worker morale, they show Bahrain to be heavy handed and regressive, and they certainly don’t tackle the underlying issues causing worker unrest. On the upside, this might just be another way to fill Gulf Air flights to India.

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