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US seeks talks with Bahrain on worker rights

Ensuring protection of labour rights top priority for US, says official

Image Credit: Courtesy: Bahrain News Agency
Ambassador Krajeski, (second right) Sameera Rajab (right), Shaikh Ali Salman (second left),leader of Al Wefaq, and Shaikh Azzam Mubarak Al Sabah, Kuwait ambassador to Bahrain, atthe US reception on Monday. Bahrain rejected reports of strained ties with US.
Gulf News

Washington: The United States is seeking talks with Bahrain over workers’ rights following a report that cited the deterioration of labour protections in the Gulf state after the unrest in 2011, officials said on Tuesday.

Acting United States Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis and acting Secretary of Labour Seth Harris said they had requested consultations over the alleged firings of trade union leaders and sectarian-related discrimination in employment since the March 2011 general strike.

Such issues would be inconsistent with the labour chapter of the US-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement, they said.

“Ensuring that workers in Bahrain — and in other countries — can exercise their fundamental labour rights is a top priority for the Obama administration, and we expect that the action we are taking today will produce a collaborative discussion and positive resolution to these important labour issues,” Marantis said in a statement.

“We look forward to working with Bahrain to improve respect for labour rights through the mechanisms provided by our trade agreement.”

The request for talks came in the wake of a report last December by the US Labour Department that concluded that since the early 2011 labour unrest, a number of trade unionists and leaders were targeted for firing.

In addition, the report says that Shiite workers are being discriminated against in Bahrain.

Despite having made some efforts to reinstate most of the workers involved in the strike, the report said, Bahrain’s government nevertheless “directly engaged in discrimination on the basis of political opinion and/or religion in the public sector”.

It also “failed to sanction such discriminatory practices by private sector employers”.

On Sunday, Bahrain’s cabinet approved a parliamentary proposal to take unspecified action to stop “interference” in the kingdom’s affairs by the US ambassador.

“The cabinet has approved a proposal by the parliament to put an end to the interference of US Ambassador Thomas Krajeski in Bahrain’s internal affairs,” government spokeswoman Sameera Rajab said, according to the official BNA news agency.

The measure also aims at ending “his repeated meetings with instigators of sedition” — a government term for protesters who frequently clash with police.