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Sat 12 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Unpaid: Bahrain protest kicks off

70 Indian site workers down tools to demand 11 months pay, in the latest strike to rock the GCC construction industry

More than 70 workers in Manama, Bahrain have gone on strike after not being paid for up to eleven months.The workers, who are mainly from India, are employed by Al Khayam Construction Company.

Construction Week spoke to the company foreman, Sasidharan Pillai, who said that all the workers were on strike and would not go back to work until they were paid.

“It’s very sad how we are taken for granted. Some of us have been working with the company for about 20 years,” he said.“The workers have not been paid for seven months and four of us supervisors have not been paid for 11 months.”He said that the men have been surviving on borrowed money from friends.

“The company even refused to give us money for food,” he said. “We were told that the reason the company couldn’t pay us was because the clients for their projects hadn’t paid them and that we would get paid as soon as possible. We continued working without fail with the hope that we would get our wages either today or tomorrow. It’s been eleven months now.”

“Finally, we decided to stop working and we approached the Labour Ministry for help. We have been summoned along with the owner to report to the labour court this week.”Pillai said that the workers have decided that they will not go back to work unless they are paid for at least five months after being told that getting paid in full was out of the question.

“We are ready to go back to work. We don’t want to cause problems and we are not happy going on strike. But this step has proved necessary,” he said.

“Each worker gets only US $132 (BHD50) per month so asking for at least five months wages which works out to $795 (BHD300) per month is not unreasonable. We are the ones who have built up this company and then this is how they repay us.”

Al Khayam Construction was unavailable for comment on the workers’ strike action.

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