U.S. requests talks with Bahrain over 2011 labor crackdown

WASHINGTON Tue May 7, 2013 6:34pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday accused Bahrain of failing to protect workers' rights in its response to a March 2011 general strike at the time of the Arab Spring and asked for formal consultations under a free trade pact.

"Ensuring that workers in Bahrain - and in other countries - can exercise their fundamental labor rights is a top priority for the Obama Administration," acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said in a statement.

Bahrain, a small island country off the Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia, is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet.

Washington's request for talks came about two years after the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor organization, first complained that the Bahrain government's brutal crackdown on the general strike violated commitments to protect workers' rights under the U.S.-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement, which went into force in 2006.

"We're pleased the U.S. government is moving ahead with consultations even though we had hoped this announcement would have been issued months ago. Unfortunately, the campaign to dismantle the Bahraini labor movement has been moving much faster than the U.S. response," AFL-CIO trade and globalization specialist Celeste Drake said in a blog.

The U.S. Labor Department issued a report in December, some 20 months after the general strike, that faulted the Bahrain government for the actions it took.

"In the widespread dismissals after the March 2011 general strike, trade unionists and leaders were targeted for firing and, at times, criminal prosecution for their role in the strike, and Shia workers and political critics of the government faced discrimination," the U.S. report said.

"The reinstatement process for these dismissed workers has raised additional concerns of violations of freedom of association and political and sectarian-based discrimination against Shia workers, which reflect the larger context of a deteriorating labor rights environment in Bahrain," it said.

Talks between the two countries are expected to begin within 30 days, unless both sides agree to a delay.

"My sincere hope is that these consultations will produce a concrete plan of action, based on the recommendations in the Labor Department's report that will strengthen labor protections in Bahrain and help prevent violations of workers' rights," said acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office said the United States was optimistic that the talks with Bahrain "will yield a satisfactory outcome."

If not, the next step would be to convene a joint U.S-Bahrain subcommittee on labor affairs, which could turn to a mediator or conciliator to resolve differences, she said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Christopher Wilson and Paul Simao)

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Comments (1)
Arnleif wrote:
The US supporting labor movements, HA!

Nice words indeed, too bad the US pretty much gave Saudi Arabia the green light to go ahead and crush what ultimately resulted in a call for democracy. It was not an invasion according to the US, it was a move by the Saudis to maintain regional “stability” as they called it. Meaning we prefer the autocratic rule before democratic movements. I think it is pretty clear that the US spend quite some effort to crush labor unions or any democratic organization by common people. It is certainly no hard ting to prove.

As an Norwegian it was no secret what the Americans thought of labor unions. The message from the Americans were: -”Labor unions and the oil industry do not go well together”. The result was horrific working conditions with no regard for safety. The first decades of extracting oil from the North Sea using US companies resulted in hundreds of dead, and thousands of permanent disabled workers. A sever contrast to the working condition on the mainland. And this in a democratic western country, one can only image how that plays out among the US dictator friends….

Democracy has be served from the top down according to US ideology, and any form of people driven democratic momentum has to be demonized and crushed as communism and socialism. A unified terminology according to the US. The US have pretty much killed of their labor unions, which no doubt was one of strongest democratic institution that the country had. What is left of US democracy, is that US citizens are allowed to vote for a preselected candidate that offers promises through nice word and rhetoric.

You can see the same altitude against other organizations such Women’s rights and such. The notion goes we have come so far we do not need them anymore. I bet that one did not did not come from common people, it came from the top.

Anyone in the US can be a president…if you got enough money to support your campaign. And who got the money in US? The workers? Common people? Nooooo…..

The notion that the US is promoting democracy and human rights is bullshit! Americans seem to have forgotten what democracy is, and that the struggle for power is a constant never ending struggle. I think human history is quite clear on that.

May 08, 2013 7:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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