By SOMAN BABY, Posted on » Tuesday, May 05, 2009
BAHRAIN is determined to scrap the sponsorship system for foreign workers within three months, despite objections from employers, it declared yesterday.
The new law is to comply with international human rights standards and will be enforced, says Labour Minister and Labour Market Regulatory Authority chairman Dr Majeed Al Alawi.The new law will allow foreign workers to switch jobs without their existing employer’s consent, said Dr Al Alawi.
“This means we are scrapping the sponsorship system,” he told a Press conference at the LMRA headquarters in Sanabis.
“The decision will also eliminate the free visa practice in the country.
“Some employers who recruit workers and dump them in the market in return for monthly share of their income, will no longer be able to do so.”
Dr Al Alawi said the move would encourage employers to recruit more Bahrainis, as they would no longer be able to force expatriate workers to stay on.
“The LMRA’s research and development department will meanwhile prepare a report on putting a ceiling on the number of foreign workers being recruited into the country,” said Dr Al Alawi.
“We will release the details on the ceiling only on completion of this study.
“This is being done according to the LMRA Law, which calls for adjusting the expatriate population as per the economic requirements of the country.
“However, the decision will be taken in consultation with the private sector, so as to ensure that development projects are not effected.”
The mobility of foreign workers is stipulated in article 25 of ministerial decree number 19 for 2006.
However, it was published in the Official Gazette last Thursday, after discussions in the Parliament and approval by the Cabinet.
It becomes law three months after being published in the Official Gazette.
Dr Al Alawi dismissed potential objections by the business community, saying the law was being implemented as part of Bahrain’s commitment to international human rights standards in the labour market.
“When we introduced the mid-day work ban during summer months and the ban on transportation of workers in open trucks, the business community and the employers objected,” he noted.
Once the new law comes into force, foreign workers will have the right to move from one employer to another, provided he abides by the law.
“It is the duty of the worker when he desires to move from his employer before the expiry of his work permit, or its cancellation, to notify his employer in a registered letter, with a notice of receipt,” said Dr Al Alawi.
“A three-month notice period is enough.
“The other employer has to apply to the LMRA for a new work permit for the employment of the worker wishing to move to him.
The work permit issued to the new employer, will be valid from the moment the assigned fees are paid.
It will be the worker’s responsibility to inform the LMRA at least 30 days before the expiration of his original work permit, or within five days of it being cancelled by the employer.
This can be done electronically and the worker will be granted 30 days grace to move to the other employer, during which he may not take up any form of employment.
“For certain professions, the employer may insist that the employee does not work for a competitor for at least six months,” said Dr Al Alawi.
“However, this is binding only if it is specified in the mutually agreed contract.
Dr Al Alawi reiterated that it was illegal for employers to withhold workers’ passports, to prevent them from leaving the company.
“We have made it clear several times that no employer has the right to withhold the passport of a worker,” he noted.
“Such workers can file a case in the court and get their passports released.” firstname.lastname@example.org