Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2018, 09:05 GMT

2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bahrain

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Bahrain, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 18 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 753,000
Capital: Manama
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 105 – 111 – 182

The government has not ratified Convention 87 on Freedom of Association, workers are discouraged from union activity, and union leaders are sacked and harassed. Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco) union leaders were constantly harassed and a post office union leader was suspended for speaking out. Seventeen migrant workers were threatened with deportation for striking.

Trade union rights in law

Right to freedom of association recognised: Workers have the right to belong to trade unions in Bahrain, and while trade unions are allowed, they must all belong to the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU – an ITUC affiliate). Workers in the private sector, including migrant workers, may join trade unions.

Only one trade union is allowed at each workplace, and no prior authorisation is required to form a union, but the union's constitution must be sent to the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, together with the names of the founding members.

Since October 2006, a decree on employment in the private sector prohibits sacking for trade union activities, and employers have to reinstate sacked employees and provide compensation if it is proved that they were sacked because of their union activities.

Right to collective bargaining: In 2007 the government promised to adopt a law to allow collective bargaining but has not yet done so. The GFBTU, which had 55 affiliates, is actively involved in tripartite discussions on this new law.

Restrictions on the right to strike: Workers and employers must use a conciliation process to settle disputes. If this fails, the dispute is referred to further conciliation and arbitration, and if this fails, then it must be settled through arbitration within one week.

Workers may only go on strike after getting the approval of three-quarters of the members of the union's general assembly through a secret ballot. The employer and the Ministry of Labour must then be notified at least two weeks in advance.

The government's list of essential services in which strikes are banned goes far beyond the ILO definition. It includes the hydrocarbon, health, education, pharmacy, baking, security, civil defence, airport, port and transport sectors.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: Construction firms discourage Bahraini workers from taking part in union activities by "threatening union members with the sack", according to GFBTU Assistant General Secretary Mohammed Abdul Rahman. Working and living conditions of migrant workers, who make up roughly 60% of the workforce, remain difficult. In 2008, the GFBTU, along with some human rights organisations, supported migrant workers' strikes, especially in the construction sector. The GFBTU is campaigning for the government to ratify ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association.

Migrant workers harshly treated: Although migrant workers are allowed to join unions and run for union office, they prefer not to, as they are not protected against dismissal. According to proposed legislation, if they overstay their work permits, they will be heavily fined, imprisoned and then deported. Fear of deportation or employer retaliation prevents many of them from complaining to the authorities.

Update on sacked workers at Al-Marai Dairy Company: The 50 workers who were sacked after taking part in a month-long strike in November 2007 were finally reinstated in 2008.

Update on Batelco company sackings: Trade union chairman Majed Suhrab and union research and development committee head member Faisal Ghazwan, were not reinstated in their jobs, despite a ruling by the Minister of Labour. They had both been sacked in July 2007 after a protest march by nearly 500 workers over pay and a new retirement plan.

In June this year, Batelco sacked 44 workers, in contravention of the Voluntary Early Retirement Package agreed between union and management.

Union leader suspended without pay for speaking out: In February, Ms Najiyah Abdul Ghaffar, deputy head of the Postal Workers' Union, was again ordered to stop work for ten days without pay due to her trade union activities.

This follows similar harassment in 2007 when she was suspended for three days without pay in March for talking to the press about the hardship postal workers face, and in December when she and other member of the Postal Workers' Union were suspended for five days without pay for saying that government employees should be allowed to organise.

Indian migrant workers threatened with deportation for striking: 17 Indian migrant workers from the Classified Construction Company were arrested, held in police custody and threatened with deportation after police raided their labour camp in Malkiya on 21 July. They were accused of setting fire to a company vehicle.

These arrests followed a one-day strike on 15 July by 70 workers over unpaid wages and bad living conditions. The strike was called off after the workers registered their complaint with the Labour Ministry and the company agreed to pay the wages. However, the company reneged on its promises.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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