GDN: A MAJOR drive is being launched to encourage expatriates to join trade unions.
Officials from the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) will attend a conference in Kuwait next week to discuss the issue with colleagues from across Asia.
Activities and programmes head Karim Radhi said less than 10 per cent of the body's membership of around 25,000 were expatriates.
He said the unrest and the events of the last year had put on hold GFBTU plans to conduct nationwide campaigns to encourage foreign workers to join trade unions in their respective companies.
"The crisis last year and reinstatement of workers put on the shelf the issue to unionise migrant workers," he said.
Mr Radhi will travel to Kuwait with board member Mohammed Abdulrahman for the three-day event, which starts on Monday.
"In this Kuwait conference we will raise the issue of migrant workers with unionists from Nepal, Pakistan and other Asian countries," said Mr Radhi.
He revealed expatriates tend to shy away from joining unions as they fear they may lose their jobs or have their residence permits cancelled if their employers find out.
"We understand that foreign workers are afraid to come out and join unions because of pressure from their employers," said Mr Radhi.
He said in some companies such as Bapco and Alba, workers were automatically given union membership after being hired.
"Our plan in the future is to work on a sectoral union in the construction industry," said the union leader.
"This will be the biggest union in the country in terms of representation as it would cover thousands of workers."
The GFBTU previously joined forces with the Swiss-based Building and Wood Worker's International (BWI) to push for a national construction union to protect rights of migrant workers.
It also last month tied up with Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) to work on pre-departure training programme for workers travelling from Kerala.
As part of the initiative by International Trade Union Congress, GFBTU and INTUC will work to impart training on labour rights for workers from Kerala travelling to Gulf countries.
Meanwhile, Mr Radhi was re-elected as secretary onto the Gulf Industrial Investment Company trade union during its elections held last month.
Hussain Abdulla was elected as GIIC union chairman and other members elected were Majeed Naser Ahmed as deputy chairman, Ali Naseeb as treasurer, Mohammed Jawad in charge of membership, Hassan Alaradi in charge of working women and Hussain Al Nakal in charge of working youth.
"The board also decided to create a mechanism to encourage all migrant workers in the company to be union members and form their own committee in the union," said Mr Radhi.