Attacks on unions in Bahrain continue after general strike

Despite assurances following the ending of the strike in March, government and employers have instigated arrests in a bid to smash independent and free trade unions.

More than 1,000 workers are facing “lay-offs” including employees at Aluminium Bahrain BSC, Bahrain Telecommunications, Gulf Air, Bahrain Airport Services and APM Terminals at the Khalifa sea port. All the sackings were due to workers being “absent” during the strike.

Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Hussain, president of the union at Bahrain Petroleum, has been sacked for his “absence” during the strike and also for “inciting workers to strike”. The company will soon begin a “legal prosecution” of Hussain , who was central to the creation of the GBFTU, the umbrella group of trade unions.

Many employees at Bahrain Petroleum Company face losing their jobs as 60 per cent of the workforce went on strike on March 16 and 17. Security forces have closed down the GBFTU headquarters and are expected to call its president, Salman Mahfooz, in for questioning. The GBFTU website has also been closed down. Parliament is calling on the government to immediately refer trade union leaders involved in the strike to the public prosecution office.

All members of the GBFTU executive, spanning all industries, have been suspended from work pending investigations. On top of this attack, companies are now planning legal cases in a further attempt to permanently shut down free and independent trade unionism.

More than 300 activists have been arrested, many more are missing and at least 20 were killed when protesters took to the streets in February, inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The violent suppression of the Bahraini people’s protests were helped by armed intervention from neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The ILO and a number of global unions including the International Chemical Workers, International Transport Workers and the ITUC have protested at the mass sackings and acts of revenge against the GBFTU. Sharan Burrow of the ITUC said: “The Baharaini authorities seem intent on destroying the country’s trade union movement, as a central part of a campaign of revenge against those who took part in peaceful demonstrations and strike actions in protest at the killing and maiming of innocent people by Bahrain’s security forces with the support of foreign troops.”

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