Alba strike sparks copycat protests

Bapco workers plan to down tools this week after Alba employees stop work and demand 20% wage increase

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By  Sean Cronin Published  October 28, 2006

More workers in Bahrain could down tools following last week’s historic one-hour strike at Aluminium Bahrain (Alba), which secured pay increases of up to 20% for the workforce. It was the first strike of its kind to be held in the kingdom and came just days after the king, Sheikh Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, issued a decree banning the dismissal of workers because of trade union activities. Now workers at Bahrain’s only oil refinery are also threatening to stop for half an hour next week. The Bapco trade union is seeking a 25% hike on basic pay as well as increases in housing allowances. The Alba strike was the first major coordinated strike action since unions were legalised in the country in 2002. The single demand made by workers was for a unified pay rise for all workers at the plant. Earlier, a report commissioned by the management at the smelter found that differences in salaries for workers doing the same job ranged from between 7% and 21%. In a statement, Alba said: “The Alba executive management team, with the agreement of the Alba Union Board, decided yesterday that salary adjustments for all employees would range between 20 and 22%. The salary adjustments will be made effective from this current month.” Now workers at the Bapco refinery are threatening to stop work from 6.15am to 6.45am on 31 October. The union says it has already sent a letter to management seeking pay increments, which failed to produce a positive response. The Alba union is the largest in the country with 2,400 members among the smelter’s workforce of 3,000 employees. Around 90% of the membership is Bahraini.

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