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Fri 2 Jan 2009 08:40 AM

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Firms face fine as Bahrain bids to protect labourers

Open trucks outlawed as Gulf state cracks down on transfer of workers.

Bahrain has started its crackdown on transporting labourers to work in open trucks despite widespread opposition from business leaders, it has been revealed.

Talks are to take place soon between police chiefs, Labour Ministry officials and the chamber of commerce to discuss how best to implement the ban.

Drivers and owners of open trucks as well as passengers will not initially be fined, Lieutenant Colonel Shaikh Abdulrahman bin Sabah al-Khalifa, General Directorate of Traffic acting director-general, said in comments published by Gulf Daily News on Friday.

"Offenders will first be educated, then warned and if repeated warnings are ignored, they will be booked," he told the paper.

Companies that ignore the new rule face a minimum fine of 100 dinars ($265), while the owner or driver could also be jailed for six months.

Vehicles caught transporting workers illegally a second time will have their registration suspended for 30 days, the Interior Ministry announced last month.

Repeated violators face even tougher penalties, it said.

Traffic police started to enforce the rule from New Year's Eve, despite staunch opposition from Bahrain's business community - with one businessman claiming 50 per cent of construction activity would come to a standstill as a result.

The chamber's construction committee head Samir Abdulla Nass said it was an ill-conceived move that would have disastrous consequences and claimed the measure would strain companies' already overburdened finances.

The ban has been brought in to protect foreign labourers who are often transported like cattle on the back of open six-wheelers and pick-up trucks.

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