The Wefaq Opposition group in strife-torn Bahrain claim that hundreds of workers (most Shia Muslims) have been fired by the employees in retaliation for going on strike in March and supporting the protests against the Sunni ruling dynasty.
According to media reports, officials at leading companies Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco), Gulf Air, Bahrain Airport Services and APM Terminals Bahrain have laid off more than 200 of their workers due to the March strike. On the whole, Wefaq, estimates, about 1000 workers (almost all of them Shias) have been fired.
In addition, Bahrain Petroleum (Bapco) is expected to announce hundreds of layoffs, having just fired the head of its laborers union
Bahraini unions called a general strike in mid-March to express support for the pro-democracy demonstrators. The strike was however called off on March 22.
It's illegal in Bahrain and anywhere else in the world to just strike. You have to give two weeks' notice to your employer, one executive told Reuters.
The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) expressed its dismay over the mass job losses.
Our decision to go on strike was not at all political, but in the interest of the workers. We explained our stance that workers were scared to go to work, fearing harassment at check points. Once we were assured by high ranking government officials about the safety of workers, the strike was called off, said the union’s secretary-general Salman Mahfoodh.
We request immediate intervention of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to end this crisis. Political solution at this stage will stop these job cuts to ensure workers are not affected.”
The International Labour Organization (ILO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, has condemned the mass firings as well as other repressive measures in Bahrain.
ILO, which is an agency of the United Nations, said it will send a delegation to Bahrain as soon as possible to discuss the firings with the government.
Analysts fear the job losses will only serve to drive a deeper wedge between Shias and Sunnis.
They're basically punishing people to the degree that they can, and I think in the long term this is a very risky strategy for them to take, said Gala Riani of IHS Global Insight.
The Bahraini government has cracked down on protesters, including the arrest of hundreds of activists. Last month, they raised the ire of Iran by inviting troops from Saudi Arabia to quell dissent in the kingdom.