Contentious consent

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As we went to press last week, CW received a call from a source within Al Hamad in Bahrain, claiming that the administration staff had now asked its employees to sign new agreement documents, which were printed on official company letter heads.

A comment left on the ConstructionWeekOnline website by another employee confirmed the same.

This follows claims last week from employees within Al Hamad that middle and senior management staff including civil engineers, site engineers, project engineers, project managers and project directors were being asked to agree to a wage deduction of up to 20% by signing blank scraps of paper, which were then being collected by administrative staff.

But Al Hamad had earlier rubbished those claims via statement to CW saying: "None of the employees have been asked or forced to sign on any blank sheet."

He also said that the company was well within the Bahraini law by preparing a MoU between the company and the employee, which would only come into effect after the "consent" of the employee.

A foreman working for Al Hamad claimed that he was among the many hundreds of Al Hamad employees who were asked to sign those contentious blank scraps of paper. He did not consent to do so and is now out of a job.

The term ‘consent' comes with as much of a right to agree, as it does to refuse. If you take away that right, it's ‘force.'

After consulting a lawyer friend it was clear that these consents in writing are needed by the company to annul any existing contracts that were previously drawn up between it and the employees.

Without that, the company would no longer be within the law's jurisdiction, rendering all salary cuts illegal and in violation of the Bahraini labour law.

Is there such a thing as forced consent? You decide.

Conrad Egbert is the editor of Construction Week.

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