India, Bahrain to sign labour agreement in June(Lead)

April 26th, 2008 - 10:25 pm ICT by admin  

Kottayam (Kerala), April 26 (IANS) Aiming to ensure greater protection for Indian workers in Bahrain, the two countries have finalised a draft of a labour agreement after talks between Bahraini Labour Minister Majid Al-Alawi and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi here. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Labour Mobility and Manpower Development was given final shape during the two days of talks from Friday the two ministers had at Kumarakom, a popular tourist destination in Kottayam district.

An overseas Indian affairs ministry official said the two countries will sign a labour agreement in June.

“A draft of the MoU has been initialled and the agreed minutes to this effect have also been cleared at the highest level. The MoU delves into labour mobility and manpower development,” said the official.

Releasing the details of the proposed agreement, a ministry press release said it will provide an institutional framework for strengthening bilateral cooperation in the deployment of Indian workers in Bahrain.

Both ministers recognised there were several malpractices which needed to curbed, like substitution of contracts, delayed or non-payment of wages, harsh working and living conditions, denial of contractual facilities, ill-treatment and physical abuse of workers.

Significantly, the deal proposes to bring all categories of workers under the protection of labour laws. So far, domestic workers, most of them woman migrants, did not come under the ambit of labour laws. There are about 50,000 expatriate domestic workers in Bahrain, of which about 20,000 are Indians.

Further, the proposed MoU ensures that all employment contracts will have to be in conformity with the terms of the work permit. The deal also says that all contracts will have to be authenticated by the Bahraini government.

Besides, the agreement allows for facilitation of manpower recruitment - that has to be in conformity with laws of both nations - and mutual sharing of information and experience.

A joint committee of three members from each country will implement the MoU.

There are about 280,000 Indians working in Bahrain and nearly 70 percent of them are believed to be from Kerala.

India has signed similar labour agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait and an additional protocol with Qatar to safeguard the interests of Indians working in those countries.

India had first mooted such a deal with Bahrain in December 2006 and Ravi raised the matter during his visit to Bahrain, as well as the trip of the Bahraini Crown Prince to India last year.

According to the ministry statement, the Bahraini government has rolled out a major programme for labour market reforms, “aimed at providing better living and working conditions for expatriate workers and enforcing basic rights”. These include the constitution of a Labour Market Regulatory Authority.

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