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MORE than 300 workers at a Bahraini firm plan to step up pressure on their bosses by swapping their orange armbands for red - the last step before they take industrial action.

The workers at Gulf Industrial Investment Company (GIIC) swapped their white armbands, which they had been wearing for a week, for orange last Wednesday.

Unionists at the iron-ore processing plant have been at loggerheads with senior management for the past fortnight after the Hidd-based firm allegedly made key decisions relating to staff rights and welfare without their consent.

Union representatives met Labour Ministry officials on Wednesday to discuss their concerns, but say they hope to send a signal to their bosses by donning the red armbands by the end of the week.

"I can confirm that we did meet with the officials at the Labour Ministry and spoke to them about the issues that are concerning us," said General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) federation activities and projects assistant secretary-general Karim Radhi, who is also a GIIC Trade Union member.

"From what I understand, the Labour Ministry has now sent a letter to GIIC management and all parties are now communicating - which is a good thing.

"However, until things change we will continue our current momentum.

"This means we are wearing orange bands at the moment and we will swap to red bands by the end of the week, if nothing changes."

The GDN reported last month that the GIIC union was unhappy, claiming the company scrapped its transportation service, changed its Ramadan operating hours and refused to sign a 'negotiation mechanism' requiring them to discuss issues relating to staff rights and welfare.

From November, around 200 workers who used the company's transportation service will be provided with a BD15 monthly transport allowance instead, which Mr Radhi claimed was not enough.

Senior management have also been accused of changing Ramadan timings, from 7am to 1pm to 8.30am to 2.30pm, without consulting workers.

"To be quite honest I'm not that optimistic (that any solution will be found)," said Mr Radhi.

"We have spoken to GIIC's management on a regular basis, but they have said that these measures have been taken in light of the financial crisis and there is no way to go back.

"We have never been forced to take industrial action and we are willing to listen to what the management has got to offer. But we are prepared to take action over the next few weeks if things do not improve.

"We do not believe what we are asking for is unreasonable and we understand there is a financial crisis - but people need money to survive too."

A GIIC spokesman told the GDN yesterday that talks were continuing with the union and did not think industrial action was likely.

"We have sat down with the union's members and we are trying to resolve the problems as we speak," he said.

"We do not believe that industrial action will happen and we believe that we can solve any disputes through talking.

"Everything will be settled soon."

Copyright 2009 Gulf Daily News

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Oct 5, 2009
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