Strike threat

By BASMA MOHAMMED

BAHRAIN’S fishermen yesterday threatened a new wave of demonstrations followed by strike action unless they get government support.

Bahraini fishermen want full exemption from the BD10-a-month levy per expatriate worker because they claim they can only find foreign crewmen.

They also want financial compensation for lost earnings, in an industry they say has been decimated by land reclamation and declining catches.

The fishermen say they will be monitoring today’s weekly Cabinet meeting and that unless recommendations to help them are at least discussed, a new wave of protests will begin.

If that fails, they say they will stage their second nationwide strike this year, taking fresh fish off the local market.

It is estimated that more than 1,000 licensed Bahraini fishermen will take part in the demonstrations.

“Fishermen are fed up with waiting and are accusing the government of failing to do its best to meet their demands,” said Fishermen’s Protection Society secretary-general Abdul-ameer Al Mughani.

“We have demonstrated and held a strike before. We can do it again.”

He said the Municipalities and Agriculture Ministry had sent a memo to the Cabinet, recommending an extension to exemption from the BD10 Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) levy as well as action to speed up solutions to their grievances.

The memo was sent in the past two weeks and fishermen say it should get urgent priority.

“We hope the Cabinet would discuss the memo at its session,” said Mr Al Mughani.

“If it doesn’t, it will be our signal to start planning our demonstrations.”

The GDN reported last week that the ministry had backed fishermen’s demands to be exempted from the LMRA fee.

Fishermen have threatened a second national strike unless the fee is dropped because they claim that they are forced to employ expatriates because they cannot find Bahraini crewmen.

They were granted a three-month exemption following an earlier strike but this ran out on June 4.

Demand

They say the LMRA is now demanding the fee which they say is crippling an industry already hard-hit by land reclamation and other problems.

Fishermen earlier gave the government until early next month to meet their demands or else they will strike.

The demands include compensation for loss of earnings which they blame on land reclamation dramatically reducing fish stocks.

They have voted to strike for the second time after July 5 if the government fails to meet any of their demands by then.

Their earlier strike which lasted for a week in February involved more than 1,700 fishermen and followed a series of demonstrations.

A Cabinet session chaired by Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa discussed the creation of the fund to support families’ breadwinners on February 23.

The GDN reported in March that authorities had agreed to exempt the fishermen from the BD10 fee and Municipalities and Agriculture Minister Dr Juma Al Ka’abi later confirmed to the society that the levy had been lifted.

A meeting between LMRA officials and fishermen followed and the LMRA said the tax would be frozen for three months. The LMRA also agreed to allow fishermen to renew their foreign workers’ residence permits free.

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