Minimum wage 'is key to cut abuse' Published: 15 September 2006

SETTING a minimum wage not only for housemaids, but also for other foreign workers, would prevent their exploitation by abusive employers, said a Pakistan Embassy official.

"The minimum wage is a bigger question not only confined to housemaids," said community welfare consular Habib Ur Rehman, who represented his embassy at the meeting held at the Labour Ministry with labour relations director Shaikh Ali bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa yesterday.

"Although Pakistan does not send its women to work as maids, I believe there should be a minimum wage for other workers because it will prevent the exploitation of workers by employers.

"Because of high unemployment rates in poor countries, there is unhealthy competition from workers who are willing to work in low paying jobs."

The official said that well-informed sources have told the embassy that there are Pakistani labourers in Bahrain who earn as little as BD30 a month.

"Although I have not seen workers earning as little as BD30 with my own eyes, I have seen workers being paid BD39," said Mr Ur Rehman.

"These workers often pay heavy fees to recruitment agencies to come here.

Purchase

"Some pay hundreds, if not BD1,000 or more, to purchase their visas.

"They often borrow money from relatives or friends in Pakistan to just come here and when they get here they find out that they earn BD30 to BD40.

"The cost of living in Bahrain is quite high, so these workers find that they are not able to save money that much - leading to frustration."

Mr Ur Rehman said that the embassy has assisted Pakistani workers in no less than four strikes in the last month alone.

"We hope that the Labour Ministry will continue with its good job in trying to settle disputes between workers and employers," said Mr Ur Rehman.

"I feel that meetings such as the one held today would be very good if it was held on a more regular basis.

"It gives both sides the opportunity to talk and highlight problems before they get bigger."

There are about 45,000 Pakistanis in Bahrain.

On average, the embassy receives about 10 to 15 nationals a day seeking assistance.

"Not all of these are employer related problems," said the official.

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