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Sun 10 May 2009 08:33 AM

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Contracting industry chief slams Bahrain sponsor move

Chamber of Commerce criticises scrapping of sponsorship for foreign workers.

The axing of the sponsorship system for foreign workers in Bahrain will be detrimental for contracting companies, a leading official has said.

Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry Contractors' Committee head Sameer Nass said the entire sector was infuriated and claimed the government had not consulted on the move.

"We were not consulted by the government before the decision was made," he said in comments published by Gulf Daily News on Sunday.

"We were told about the idea long time ago, but our objections were not considered."

Under the new regulations, foreign workers will be directly sponsored by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority and therefore able to move jobs without the consent of their previous employer.

The changes will be effective from August.

The previous system, which is common in the Gulf Arab states and under which employers do the sponsoring, has long been criticised by human rights groups for placing workers at the whim of their employers, who usually take their passports.

Nass said businesses were mainly worried about staff working in top positions in their companies being allowed to change jobs at will.

"A high-profile company spends from BD6,000 to BD10,000 to recruit a highly-qualified senior man from abroad to manage a project costing millions of dinars. A couple of months later, after he learns the market, he decides to join a competitor for a little more money and with him takes confidential information about the company and project," he told the paper.

"This company may also get staff from competitors. But is it fair?"

He claimed the scrapping of the sponsorship system would create "a dangerous situation" where companies would have "no stability".

Omar Shamma 10 years ago

I think the contracting industry needed a "Kick up the backs..." long ago and now they get it"! If contrators are afraid that newly hired employees jump ship once they learn that their packages are not competitive then you need to offer them competitive packages from the start. In additon if you are afraid of escalating wage inflation as a result of this initiative you need to address this by ensuring that you put in place a clear and fair compensation and benefits policies and other incentives (non-cash) that make employees fulfilled and happy to work there. Welcome to the age of treating employess as humans with respect and dignity. If you cannot do this then you have no place as an employer or as a respectible member of society!!

Mohamed Elmeshad 10 years ago

Omar Shamma, I agree with you 150%. Whoever complained about the scrapping of the sponsorship system, simply does not understand how economics work, and is afraid of a little extra work, and a little less revenue. Is he so afraid that he'll have to start offering equitable salaries for the people doing all of the real work. How insecure must a man be to get so diffensive when the government rightly tells him he does not have the right to indentured servitude anymore. I wish he would put himself in the shoes of one of these workers. Labor laws in the GCC are in need of a complete overhaul. What we have no is an exploitative sham, that feeds off of the broken shoulders of workers who couldn't find any better similar to the slave-like conditions of Middle-Aged european feudal farms. This man and this region fell backwards into money, and instead of ackowledging God's gift and sharing what he stumbled upon by sheer providence, is taking opportunism to its ugly extremes and using the gift as a means to subdue and subjugate those less fortunate. I applaud the scrapping of the sponsorship laws, and think that it will be the best for everyone's future in the region

WK 10 years ago

Scrapping the sponsorship system is an excellent move. If employers treat their employees with respect and dignity, pay their wages on time and stop treating them as slaves or indentured servants, then they have nothing to worry about. As to top-level employees taking confidential information to another company, empirical facts do not support this concern. An unscrupulous employee may do this while working at any company. You all should stop worrying and work with the government to make the system more efficient.

Khaled 10 years ago

The government of Bahrain should take steps to change the complete system. Just like workers and employees have rights, the employer must have rights too. I suggest that in the first place, the labor and immigration departments should make better and more flexible rules to recruit workers. Most companies have to pay high fees to the labor department in order to obtain visas. These visas should be at lower costs. The other issue here is company sponsorship. I believe any investor should have the right to do business without having a local sponsor. A fixed or standard fee should do the job. This makes it easier for the investor to be flexible with his works and workers at the same time.

Jezinho 10 years ago

This is the same Sameer Nass who complained about the recent ban on the practice of transporting labourers in open top trucks (livestock have better regulated transport guidelines), citing the increased costs for companies and (get this) the risk of labourers getting sick by moving from air-conditioned transport (as if) to the heat of their working environment. One of the other benefits of the change in the regulations will be the end of the despicable practice of Bahrainis bringing in foreign workers on 'free visas', charging them some BD 500 (against the c. BD 100 actual cost) and letting them fend for themselves. Some nationals have dozens of such people on their books, creating a lucrative sideline for people unable to summon up the energy to put in a hard day's work themselves (after 2pm, at least).

Hassan E. 10 years ago

The statements made by Nass is strange. Why should a professional leave a company after two months? also any company can't keep a western working for them anyway if he decided to walk out for any reason. The contractors have reaped millions in profits from exploiting the labor market and unjust rules. It is now for them to grow up and keep in mind that only GCC countries apply such rules in the world. If contractors in other countries, make profits although they treat their labor well and pay their taxes; then why not in the GCC? If stopping the slavery will increase the construction costs in anyway, then the investors will pay and not contractors. Human rights should be respected!

Oracle 10 years ago

Message to Mr. Samer Nass 1. Welcome to the real world. 2. You want world class buildings / construction - you require world class workers - you need to pay (competitve) world class salaries. 3. Regarding the story of "highly-qualified senior man" transfering "secretive information" to a comeptitor.....Let me tell you how the rest of the world manages the situation.....Job satisfaction....which means money, taking care of the person's future professionally( like having a growth plan and sharing with the employee, giving authority with responsibility), setting challenging targets with compensation etc. 4. If in all the other non-ME markets, where labour movement is free, the construction companies can manage the show, so can you. The leadership has to be a bit more imaginative. 5. Qualified and hardworking local employees are going to benefit. This will create an impetus for other locals to follow suit.

Ali 10 years ago

Though I may agree to some of the comments made by the readers, still no one answerd the fundemenal, who will pay the cost of bring in an employee where the cost of bringing him over to bahrain may exceed BD 10K, what happens if in two months time this employee decides to jump horse, who will pay for such cost. Ahmed Nass has a point here.

Omar Shamma 10 years ago

I am pleased to see that all the comments agree that the new sponsorship rules are a positive move in terms of human rights, business and future opportunities for hard working Bahrainis (and I hope other GCC nationals). Arabian Business may I ask of you a favour...relay these comments to Mr. Nass so that the message sinks in!! Many thanks!!

Omar Shamma 10 years ago

The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce & Industry Contractors Committee webpage. It there far all to read and communicate to...