16th May, 2013 –

Background

Following the February 2011 unrest and the declaration of the National Safety status, nearly 2,500 Bahrainis were suspended from their jobs. The main reason for their suspension according to the authorities was their absence from work, alleging that this was a measure by the opposition leaders to paralyse the economy and generate further turmoil. While many private sector firms chose to continue employing those who failed to attend work, other companies, along with government sector organizations, chose to suspend these employees for the lack of justification for their absence.

Academic institutes such as government schools were the most affected by this decision since teachers failed to attend work and some led students on to the streets to participate in protests. On certain days during the early unrest the streets of Bahrain were packed with young students in school uniforms calling for the overthrowal of the regime!

Steps taken by the authorities

In July 2011 the King of Bahrain ordered the formation of an Independent Commission of Inquiry led by Prof. Mahmood Cherif Bassiouni. The ‘BICI’ investigated all the suspension incidents and recommended that employees should be reinstated.

In November 2011, when its recommendations were issued, the BICI stressed the need “to ensure that the remaining dismissed employees have not been dismissed because of the exercise of their right to freedom of expression, opinion, association or assembly”.

The government later affirmed that all employees of the public sector who were dismissed for reasons infringing on their freedom of expression had been reinstated.

A national commission was formed to study the cases of each employee and most were later reinstated in their jobs. Following many steps taken by the government to reinstate these employees as per the BICI recommendation the government has worked closely with the federation of labour unions to close these cases.

During a meeting with the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), King Hamad lauded the efforts by the federation to ensure job opportunities for all citizens and for finding appropriate solutions to ensure the return of all suspended employees. He said that he did not accept any Bahraini to be unemployed and added that the Labour Ministry will continue its efforts to guarantee the return of all expelled employees.

Outcomes

During its visit to Bahrain in October 2012, a delegation from the International Labour Organisation confirmed that 92% of the cases had been solved. Following that, Deputy Premier Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa ordered the concerned authorities to finalise the rest of the cases leading to a total of 98% of cases solved by the end of 2012.

The public sector

As reported by the Civil Service Bureau, 179 out of 180 employees, who were dismissed, have returned to their jobs as of January 1, 2012.

University of Bahrain

According to a statement by the university, the 426 dismissed students were permitted back except for 66 who refused to return for unknown reasons. As for the administrative staff, 89 employees out 95, who were suspended but not dismissed, resumed their work. Six employees did not resume their work for unknown reasons. As for the academics, 19 were dismissed, 17 of whom returned back, while 2 did not because they are abroad.

Polytechnic Institute

According to the Institute, the 54 dismissed students have been returned, except for 8 who refused to continue studying at the institute because they want to continue their studies abroad. None of the academics or the administrative staff were dismissed.

The private sector

As reported by the Ministry of Labour, 1,893 cases of dismissal out of 2,462 cases have been revised by the government. About 336 employees, including retirees, were employed in other companies in positions that are not less than their previous jobs in terms of allowances and other career privileges. Another 139 people will be employed as the ministry is exerting efforts in this regard.

Some cases of suspended employees in the private sector remain unsettled. On the 18 of November 2012, the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry called on the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions to cooperate for taking all the final steps to close these cases and bring an end to the issue of suspended employees.

Pending cases by Autumn 2012

According to official statistics, around 140 cases were pending, for the following reasons:

·        9 were employed with temporary contracts and have refused to return to their jobs, while demanding financial compensation.

·        26 cases of suspension are not linked to the unrest according to the specialized legal committee; their cases are being reviewed.

·        94 cases are being followed up by the Ministry of Labour since they are being referred for recruitment in another establishment as per their requirement and approval.

·        11 cases have attained certificates of registration and have started private businesses.

US statistics

A report by the US Department of Labour from early 2013 showed that out of 2,462 dismissed workers; only 42 had been refused return to their old jobs by employers. The Department of Labour confirmed that all “but a few hundred of the workers dismissed during the March 2011 strike have now been reinstated” and praised the “significant efforts” by Bahrain’s Minister of Labour to ensure reinstatement of employees.

Conclusion

Although many issues remain to be addressed between the Government and the opposition; the issue of the reinstated workers can be said to be a success story, in that – despite the number of families affected by these suspensions – by late 2012, apart from a few exceptions which are still being addressed, the issue can said to be resolved.

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