By ANIQA HAIDER
Monday, June 16, 2014
An estimated 2,000 workers at MRS Fashions, which manufactures garments for global brands such as Macy’s, JC Penney and Walmart, held a mass walk-out last week amid allegations of withheld salaries, unfair deportations, poor working conditions and mistreatment.
The Indian and Bangladeshi employees downed tools on Tuesday after trashing the company’s factory in Hajiyat and have since refused to co-operate with company management and Labour Ministry officials – instead issuing a set of 12 demands, including calls for a pay rise and better food and medical care.
Labour Ministry inspection and labour unions director Ahmed Al Haiki told the GDN that a written warning had now been issued to those on strike, alerting them that legal action would be taken – ultimately leading to deportation – if they did not return to work.
“This strike is illegal and we have issued a warning to the workers,” he said.
“I personally went and spoke to them, but they refused to negotiate and are adamant that they would only go back to work if their demands are met.”
Among the problems hindering negotiations is the fact that the workers are effectively leaderless and refuse to select a front man, Mr Al Haiki said.
“We have asked them to select a leader who can talk on their behalf, as we cannot talk to 2,000 people at the same time,” he said.
“They are not co-operating at all and severe action will be taken against those who go against the law.”
A representative of the striking employees claimed their current salary was as little as BD55 a month, adding that they were ready to be deported if their demands were not met.
“We have been working here for a long time but no one is listening to our problems,” he told the GDN, on condition of anonymity.
“We are ready to go to jail or be deported back home, rather than work in these conditions,” he added.
No one from MRS Fashions was available for comment when contacted by the GDN yesterday.
BAHRAIN treats migrant workers as badly as other Gulf states despite its superior labour law, human rights watchdogs warned on Tuesday. It is the only country in the region that allows migrant workers to join trade unions. It also allows migrant workers to change jobs while in the country. However, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain director Husain Abdulla said that the law was rarely implemented and that employers found ways to punish workers who wanted to quit by withholding their salaries and passports: here.