Here’s a gesture for the low paid or ‘unpaid’ labourers in Bahrain. The Rotary club of Manama along with other Rotarians teamed up to distribute food parcels for unfortunate labourers who have not received their salaries for several months. Along with the ‘The Saturday Biriani Party’, the Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) and other volunteers who distributed over 600 meals and a good few pieces of cake to mark the occassion.

As Bob Thacker, incoming president of Manama Rotary Club said; ‘It is all about service before self’. Muhammad Abbas Khan and his team from The Saturday Biriani Party, certainly had their work cut out. That is a lot of Biriani!  As you can see, it all went smoothly and according to Roaya Baqer, Community Services Director at the Rotary Club Manama; it should be an annual event to different locations.

Sadly, it is not so unusual for very low-paid labourers in Bahrain to find themselves in some sort of pay dispute. As of this video, despite considerable publicity regarding the issue and the Government releasing to concerned contractor 500,000 Dinars (Bahraini) in part payment to alleviate the situation, there are still strong claims that this money in its entirety was not used to settle wages, so many labourers are still without their salaries.

Life for the millions of expatriate labourers who leave their homes, to travel far and wide in search of work, often for years at a time, is never going to be remotely comfortable.  For those in Gulf region, it is no exception and they have unbearable heat to content with. Many live in camps and food is provided. The government of Bahrain and the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) are slowly bringing in various laws to standardise facilities which at least offer some comfort. However, often you will find a dozen to a room in run-down blocks.

It may surprise a good few who sit comfortably in socially well-established countries where ‘everyone’ has equal rights and a minimum wage, unskilled migrant workers in the Gulf cannot expect to be paid more than about $200 a month. With constant overtime (which is generally a stipulation within their employment understanding) these workers can boost their salary slightly. The question must be asked, is it any better from whence they came? Obviously not, as there is an endless supply of them.

Bahrain’s labour laws are quite strict, ensuring a maximum number of salaried hours are worked and overtime must be given outside of that. Public Holidays must be observed or overtime is paid. It is not uncommon to find these workers outside on construction sites for over 12 hours a day toiling in ruthlessly hot weather, so some Gulf Countries have banned outside working between 12 midday and 4 pm during the summer months, imposing fines on contractors who flout the rules.  All too often disputes do rear their ugly head, but it has to be said that the labour Department will always back any worker who has not received a salary, but recourse for these unscrupulous employers who so often play this game is weak.

A group founded in 2005 and headed up by stalwart worker’s activist Marietta Dias The Migrant Workers Protection Society in a very strong and active body in Bahrain and you will find them bravely turning up in the most difficult of situations sometimes when reports of abuse are filed. Housemaids to construction workers, the MWPS and their team of volunteers cannot be lauded enough for their tireless efforts.