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Waad Offers its Condolences on the Death of Thirteen Migrant Workers & Demands the Establishment of a Fully Empowered Supreme Council for Occupational Health and Safety
Categary : Statements

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2013-01-14 19:19:36




The Labour Office at the National Democratic Action Society (Waad) offers its deep condolences to the families of the thirteen migrant workers who perished in a fire in one of the buildings in Al Mukharga on Friday evening 11 January, 2013.  In light of this tragic event, the Labour Office takes this opportunity to stress the following points:


Firstly: The formation of a Supreme Council for Occupational Health and Safety as previously demanded by the trade union movement for many years, which the government has failed to implement due to the presence of conflicts of interest and powers between the establishment of this council and the existence of some ministries and business owners, has become an urgent necessity.  This Supreme Council must be comprised of the three production components (government, business owners and workers) and must have full authority to supervise and inspect establishments, working conditions and workers’ housing, in addition to the power of prosecution in the event of any identified breaches.


Secondly: Ministries and government bodies in charge of migrant employment affairs must fully comply with all standards and international conventions pertaining to occupational health and safety, and work to protect the lives and interests of migrant workers who have contributed and continue to contribute to the economic development of this country.  Furthermore, the fate of the just cause of migrant workers must not be condemned to the fate of the political crisis here in Bahrain.  Migrant workers cannot be utilised under false pretenses by those bodies claiming to represent them as a tool to create an inaccurate image of the legitimate political opposition before the international arena.   Such utilisation of migrant workers as tools to vilify opposition conveniently ignores their legitimate plight and the distressing reality they face, which mostly includes their unacceptable treatment as forced labour by their employers.


Thirdly:  The Ministries of Labour, Ministry of Municipalities and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bahrain should be held responsible for this tragedy.   Tragic incidents like these have become a regular occurrence, the latest of which took place in East Riffa during May 2012 and killed ten Asians, in addition to the tragic death of sixteen Indian workers in the fire of Gudaibiya in 2006.   Such tragedies are primarily due to the failure of these government agencies to properly discharge their duties in the application of the relevant health and occupational safety laws on companies and business owners who are in breach of their obligations and demonstrate a disregard for the dignity and rights of migrant workers and nationals alike, whether at the workplace, in their housing facilities, on transportation means or elsewhere.


Fourthly:  It has become apparent that most of those affected by last Friday’s tragic events are workers operating under “free visas” who are often living in difficult conditions as a result of their exploitation by their traffickers and those importing them into the country.  As a result of their illegal residency status, they often resort to living away from public scrutiny in areas that face little or no government surveillance, thereby endangering themselves and the community in the process.  Accordingly, this phenomenon plaguing Bahraini society must be put to an end to reduce crime and to preserve the rights and humanitarian conditions of these workers currently estimated to be  between sixty to eighty thousand in number.  As a result of laxity in regulation and in the absence of effective labour policies which comply with international conventions, these numbers are bound to increase unless measures are immediately adopted to ensure otherwise.

 

In conclusion, while demanding the proper and rigorous implementation of the relevant laws and full adherence to international labour standards, the Labour Office reiterates the need to expedite the establishment of the Supreme Council for Occupational Health and Safety.



The Labour Office

National Democratic Action Society (Waad)

14 January 2013

 
 
 
 
 

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