India, Bahrain trade unions protect workers

Dubai: Trade unions in India and Bahrain have joined hands to tackle exploitation of workers from Kerala and prepare them so they know their rights when they land in Bahrain and other Gulf countries.

Bahrain`s main trade union body, the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU), has joined forces with the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) to push for a pre-departure training programme for workers before they leave Kerala, a news report has said.

"We definitely think that workers should undergo some sort of training in their home countries," GFBTU Assistant Secretary for the Private Sector, Karim Radhi, told Bahrain`s Gulf Daily News.

"We worked on this issue last year and plan to raise it again next month during a key meeting in Kuwait. It will be attended by union bodies in Gulf and Asian countries," he said.

The decision follows a meeting to specifically discuss exploitation of workers from Kerala last year. "There should be an orientation programme for foreign workers upon arrival in Bahrain to make them aware of their rights," he said.

Low income workers often fall prey to recruitment agencies, who force them to pay huge amounts of money for visas or place them in jobs they were not looking for. "We plan to get in touch with union bodies in Nepal, Pakistan and other Asian countries to protect their rights," added Radhi.

The report quoted INTUC President R Chandrashekar as saying that many workers from Kerala were being exploited by rogue recruitment agencies and middlemen.

"They are forced to leave behind their families and at times find themselves at the mercy of middlemen and unscrupulous employers who exploit them," he said. INTUC is now planning to release a handbook outlining the rights of workers travelling abroad.