New service to help distressed expatriate employees

A new initiative is being launched to streamline the process of helping distressed expatriate employees sue their employers.

Two special offices will be opened soon to assist an aggrieved worker compile all relevant documents and submit a complaint electronically on the same day to the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry.

The offices at the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) branches in Sehla and Riffa will be staffed by translators to provide the service to employees of all nationalities.

The process will save the worker the trouble of visiting the ministry’s headquarters in the Diplomatic Area.

“Expatriate workers are sometimes apprehensive or feel intimidated when visiting the ministry to file their complaints,” LMRA chief executive Ausamah Al Absi told the GDN.

“They do not have the required documents or access to translators.

“We have addressed these issues and will soon open two offices in our branches in Sehla and Riffa where an expatriate can walk in with or without documents to register his grievances.”

The staff will register the complaints and compile all documents including evidence which will then be submitted electronically to the ministry.

“We will prepare all the documents with complete details such as job contract, passport details and company information because we already have most of this information in our database.

“There are times when a judge orders more documents in a case leading to a delay in the verdict.

“At these two offices, even if a worker walks in without a smart card or passport copy, we can take fingerprints and process the application.”

However, Mr Al Absi clarified that the two offices will only register labour dispute cases that go the court.

“We are looking at the most predominant complaints that go to the court such as related to wages, severance pay, indemnity and tickets, among others.”

Once all the information is provided and compiled, the complainant will be issued a legal receipt with dates on which he should visit the court.”

Mr Al Absi also pointed out that a lack of translators in courts has been a common issue raised by rights advocates and migrant welfare groups over the years.

He said he expected a surge in the number of complaints registered once the system goes online.

“About 300 (labour dispute) cases are dealt with every month in the courts; we expect this number to increase once our offices start functioning.”

The official also said the LMRA teams will now be able to analyse problems and spot trends as employees show up to register their claims – and this will help identify and repair the fault lines.

Hotlines for the two offices, which will be open from 8am to 8pm, is expected to be announced next week.

Meanwhile, the Labour Arbitration and Consultation Section at the Labour and Social Development Ministry in Zayed Town will continue to work to amicably settle issues between the employer and the employee.

However, in case the claims are not resolved the worker can then visit the LMRA offices to fast track the case to the court.

Labour and Social Development Minister Jameel Humaidan told MPs in March 2,863 employees working in 18 private companies did not receive their wages, with some of the salaries pending for six months.

In 2017, the ministry dealt with 1,769 complaints of unpaid wages, compared with just 276 cases in 2013, 1,386 in 2014, 1,316 in 2015 and 1,535 in 2016.

Foreign workers employment reached 594,944 workers by the end of the second quarter of this year while Bahrainis employment reached 153,103, according to latest LMRA market indicators.