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Better labor conditions in Bahrain?
The government has announced strict adherence to a new law regarding labor transport in the country. Is Bahrain moving in the right direction?
December 30, 2008 11:06 by Aarti Nagraj
The Bahraini government has confirmed that starting next week, the transport of workers in open trucks will be banned officially, reports Arab News. Violators will be subject to up to six months in prison and a fine of BD100 ($265).
Traffic officials announced the law back in November 2008, but the business community has been opposing the law strongly, stating that replacing the existing vehicles would be an additional financial burden. Last week, they also met up with the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Interior to request them to delay the ban. Apart from the extra expenditure, they said that the new measure may require them to buy two different types of buses for the construction sector, which would increase road congestion. The interior minister promised to discuss the issue with the labor ministry at the time, for the ban to be implemented gradually.
But the government has decided to go ahead with the ban. The country has been witnessing several accidents due to unsafe transportation arrangements: three workers died and 187 were injured in 2007; and two laborers were killed and 221 injured in 2006.
The General Directorate of Traffic has decided to launch an awareness campaign throughout the country to inform laborers to contact the police if they are forced to travel in open vehicles. Apart from the fine and the jail term, authorities may also cancel the violators’ commercial registrations.
While entire the Gulf region have been accused of abusing and ill-treating workers, Bahrain has been taking some steps to improve the situation.
In June this year, Bahrain promised to implement the ban on outdoor work between noon and 4pm during July and August. The government said the law applied to all contractors and construction firms, and did not give any companies exemption from the rule.
Companies that violate the ban have to pay fines between BD50 and BD300 for each worker.
In August this year, the ‘Growing Beyond Oil’ report, issued by an American NGO, Conference Board, said that Bahrain recorded the highest increase in labor productivity among all Gulf nations. It said the country’s labor productivity rate was more than five times higher than the GCC average.