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Hundreds protest Batelco layoffs

Workers and activists demonstrate over 'forced retirement' of 44 employees from leading telecom.

Hundreds of Bahraini workers and activists demonstrated Friday protesting the laying off of 44 employees from the leading mobile telephone operator Batelco.

The federation of Bahrain trade unions which led the demonstration called on mobile phone users to boycott the mostly government-owned company for two hours on Sunday by not using their phones.

"This step will be a warning to the company," the head of the federation, Sayyed Salman Mahfouz, told participants who gathered outside Batelco offices after marching through streets of Manama.

The demonstrators urged Batelco to reinstate the workers, slamming what they described as forced retirement.

"The labour union demands the reinstatement of the 44 dismissed workers... It demands an end to forced retirement and setting up a programme for voluntary retirement," Mahfouz told newswire AFP.

The workers have apparently been made redundant under an early retirement scheme. They received letters telling them that their last day at work will be June 29, union officials said.

The government and individual shareholders hold 80 percent of Batelco, while British company Cable and Wireless holds the remaining shares.