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Hope for domestic workers in Bahrain? Time will tell

On November 16, 2008

Arab News gives us a reason to be optimistic in their most recent coverage of domestic worker rights in the country:

MANAMA: The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) has formed a special committee to work on the rights of domestic workers, including a compulsory weekly day off and health insurance, according to Suad Mubarak, assistant general secretary of women and child affairs at the GFBTU.

"Housemaids have no clue about their rights and are not included in the labor law of the kingdom," Mubarak told Arab News. "A temporary mechanism to protect the rights of these workers should be enacted immediately."

Like several other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Bahraini households rely heavily on housemaids who are supplied by local and foreign recruitment agencies, often without proper contracts.

She said the GFBTU has raised the issue in Bahrain's report on its efforts related to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which was discussed in Geneva last month.

"We are discussing the recommendations that Bahrain has to consider, and better wages and conditions for domestic workers is one of the main issues that needs to be tackled," said Mubarak.

Bahrain is in the process of working on a new labor law, which is still in Parliament. References to maids was removed from all clauses in recently implemented labor market reforms law to avoid imposing taxes on families for hiring maids and drivers.

Link to article.

Update: Here's another article covering the story -

Gulf News: The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) is calling for an improvement of the labourers' working and living conditions and for taking stringent action against local contractors who disregard safety standards.

The federation raised the concerns after three Bangladeshi workers died last Friday in a fire that gutted a run-down building, adding that the law should be fully applied against those responsible for the death of the labourers.

Link to article.