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Thu 14 Feb 2008 12:51 PM

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Bahrain strikes blamed on new India wage law

Indian minimum wage law sparked industrial action by workers, contractor says.

A Bahrain construction company hit by hundreds of striking workers has blamed the industrial action on India’s new minimum wage law, Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News reported on Thursday.

Over a thousand labourers working on the $6 billion Durrat Al Bahrain manmade island project are refusing to go back to work until their monthly salary is increased to 100 Bahraini dinars ($265.6) from 57 dinars.

The workers downed tools on Saturday and were joined by another 500 workers at a separate camp on Monday, the newspaper said.

Stefanos Zachariades, managing director at contractor GP Zachariades, branded the strike illegal on Wednesday, saying the Indian embassy announcement had caused the worker uprising.

“This call has made the workers unhappy and has caused a situation of unrest. Workers think it's unfair to pay those who join after March 1 more for the same work,” the newspaper quoted.

Zachariades denied the protesting workers had been threatened with deportation, and said the company would not negotiate until the workers went back to work.

The Indian government announced this month that from March 1 it would refuse to grant Bahrain work visas unless workers were paid a minimum wage of 100 dinars, in a bid to prevent exploitation.

The government of India, which provides the majority of unskilled labourers in the Gulf, is in the process of implementing a minimum wage for its citizens working in the region.

However, the minimum wage is not enforceable in the Gulf and companies are under no obligation to increase the salaries of Indians already under contract.

The ongoing strike follows a two-day protest last week by around 750 employees of Almoayyed Contracting in Bahrain, who were refusing to return to work until their pay was increased to 85 dinars a month from 60 dinars currently.

Workers eventually agreed to an increase of 15 dinars, an offer they had initially rejected, due to fears they could be deported.

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