Home India News India can’t be blamed for Bahrain workers’ strike: envoy

India can’t be blamed for Bahrain workers’ strike: envoy

By Aroonim Bhuyan, IANS

Dubai : India cannot be blamed for the ongoing strike of around 1,800 overseas workers of a Bahraini construction company who are demanding better wages, India’s Ambassador to Bahrain Balkrishna Shetty has said.

“It is wrong to say India should be blamed for this. This is strictly a matter between the company and its workers,” Shetty told IANS over phone from Manama Thursday.

Around 1,300 workers, many of them Indians, working on the Durrat Al Bahrain manmade island project, similar to the Palm Islands of Dubai, and employed by the G.P. Zachariades Contracting Company, downed tools to press demand for a minimum salary of 100 Bahraini dinars ($266).

They were joined two days later by 500 workers from another labour camp of the company.

Company managing director Stefanos G. Zachariades said the strike was illegal and blamed a recent announcement by the Indian embassy in Bahrain that India has fixed a minimum wage limit of 100 Bahraini dinars for all its unskilled workers in that Gulf nation effective March 1.

“This call has made the workers unhappy and has caused a situation of unrest,” Zachariades was quoted as saying by the Gulf Daily News.

“Workers think it’s unfair to pay those who join after March 1 more for the same work.”

In its recent notification, the Indian embassy stated that the Indian government “would take appropriate steps to ensure that fresh employment being signed with effect from March 1, 2008 by prospective Indian employees with foreign companies would lay down the basic minimum wage of 100 Bahraini dinars, apart from free provision of accommodation, transport etc. as per the requirements of Bahraini laws and regulations in the unskilled category”.

As for existing contracts, it stated that it was for the employers in Bahrain to take appropriate decisions based on their best judgment and humane considerations.

There are around 275,000 Indians in Bahrain, many of them working as contract labour in the country’s booming construction industry.

The striking workers, many of them Indians, alleged that they were being paid BD57 and initially demanded that the figure be hiked to BD100. They later pared it down to BD90.

Negotiations between the company management and the workers were continuing.

Ambassador Shetty said that the Indian government took the decision to fix the minimum wage of BD100 in view of the rising cost of living in that Gulf nation.

“The cost of living has been going up because of the depreciation in the value of the dollar (to which the local currency is pegged) and appreciation of the rupee. The (Bahraini) dinar’s value has gone down by at least 20 percent compared to the rupee in the last one year.”

He said it was not worthwhile for Indian workers to go abroad in view of low salaries.

“There is already a big demand for such workers in India (where there is a huge infrastructure boom). Also, they pay huge amounts to recruiting agents and then come and get low salaries,” Shetty said.

He, however, added that India does not encourage its workers to violate local laws.

“Just as we don’t encourage our workers to violate local laws, we also do not expect local companies to violate local laws when it comes to workers’ issues like wages and living and working conditions,” he said.