The International Labour Organization has finally dropped an outstanding complaint against Bahrain over issues of workers’ rights and specifically the issue of workers dismissed during the unrest.
The ILO’s decision is unsurprising, given that over 98% of those who were dismissed successfully returned to their jobs; with a particularly rapid response from the public sector in reinstating employees.
Below, we set out the background to this issue and the steps taken by Bahrain’s authorities to get people working again.
Immediately after the February 2011 unrest, nearly 2,500 Bahrainis found themselves suspended from their jobs. The main reason given for their suspension was their absence from work. It was alleged that these absences were a measure by the opposition to paralyze the economy and generate further turmoil.
Many firms chose to continue employing those who failed to attend work. Other companies, along with public sector departments, chose to suspend these employees, citing lack of justification for their absence.
Academic institutes such as government schools were the most affected by this decision, since many teachers had failed to attend work and some led students on to the streets to participate in protests.
Implementing the BICI recommendations
The Government acted quickly to reinstate public sector officials and soon after the issuing of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report, affirmed that all employees dismissed for reasons infringing on their freedom of expression had been reinstated.
A commission was formed to study the cases of each employee and the Government worked closely with the Federation of Labour Unions to close these cases.
An International Labour Organization delegation visited Bahrain in October 2012. They reported that the reinstatement of dismissed workers had reached 92%. Following settlement of further outstanding cases, the percentage reinstatement rose to over 98.68%.
The public sector
As reported by the Civil Service Bureau, 179 out of 180 employees who were dismissed returned to their jobs as of January 2012.
The private sector
In large companies reinstatement reached 100%, with the exception of two companies. Twelve individual cases remained outstanding as managements have opted to resolve these through the courts.
Although some of small and medium enterprises closed down or downsized due to financial difficulties, the Ministry of Labor, in collaboration with stakeholders, succeeded to date in resolving the majority of cases, by reinstating workers to their previous jobs, or by appointing them to suitable positions.
139 cases are in the process of being resolved:
- 9 workers on temporary employment contract who do not wish to be reinstated to their jobs, claiming financial compensation only, and their settlements are in process.
- 11 workers obtained commercial registrations and became self-employed.
- 26 workers whose terminations were assessed to be unrelated to the events. Their cases are being reviewed in accordance with customary procedures
- 96 cases being followed up by the Ministry of Labor, to be nominated for hiring by other enterprises with their consent.
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 praised the “significant efforts” by Bahrain to ensure reinstatement of employees.
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 small number of exceptions, the issue could be said to be fully resolved.