Saturday, April 09, 2011

Bahrain repression targets trade unionists

THE international organisation linking building and woodworkers unions has launched a world-wide campaign protesting against repressive attacks on trade unionists in Bahrain. The Gulf island state was invaded by Saudi and other forces backing its government on March 12. Helicopter gunships were used to attack demonstrators and clear the capital's Tahrir square, and security forces harassed medical workers at the main hospital trying to treat the wounded.

While media reports and much discussion shifted to Libya - where NATO intervention, supposedly to shield civilians, had backing from the Saudis, - workers in Bahrain began a general strike against the repression.

Now the Building and Wood Workers International says it is "appalled by the recent barrage of deliberate attacks against the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), an affiliate of BWI".

"The government has closed the GFBTU headquarters and has strongly forced employers to immediately dismiss trade GFBTU leaders and workers who had participated in the General Strike launched by the GFBTU from March 13 to 22, 2011. The General Strike was the GFBTU’s response to the imposition of martial law by the Bahraini government, violent attacks against peaceful demonstrators, and the admission of more than 1,000 Saudi Arabian security forces".

“We are extremely dismayed and outraged by the actions of the authorities of the Kingdom of Bahrain in instigating a systematic campaign to undermine trade union rights in Bahrain and basically destroy the GFBTU,” stated Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI. He continued, “The GFBTU is recognized by the international community for its genuine commitment in advocating for the rights of all workers including migrant workers in Bahrain and the entire Gulf Region. On the other hand, the Bahraini authorities will now be known by the international community as a repressor of trade union rights and political democracy due to these recent actions and previous violent measures against peaceful demonstrators in Bahrain.”

The BWI says the Bahrain government is targeting firms company by company, pressuring them to unjustly terminate workers who had participated in the strike. To date, Aluminum Bahrain BSC, Bahrain Telecommunications Company, Gulf Air, Bahrain Airport Services, Khalifa Sea Port, the Bahrain University have unjustly terminated over 1,300 workers who had participated in the strike.

The BWI has pledged its whole-heartedly support and solidarity to the GFBTU, and says it will join the international trade union movement in coordinating international actions to protect trade union and worker rights in Bahrain. Calling on the Bahraini government to immediately cease all forms of repression and discrimination against workers in Bahrain and the GFBTU, the BWI says it will vigilantly continue to monitor the situation.

There's a form on the BWI's website which can be used to add your voice to the international protest.

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