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Cablegate: Labor Standards Improving, but Qualified

VZCZCXRO7918
RR RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHMK #0537 2241416
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 111416Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8051
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0273
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHBVAKS/COMUSNAVCENT

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAMA 000537

SIPDIS

BAGDHAD FOR AMBASSADOR ERELI
STATE FOR DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/11/2018
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PHUM BA
SUBJECT: LABOR STANDARDS IMPROVING, BUT QUALIFIED
GOVERNMENT INSPECTORS LACKING

REF: MANAMA 463 Classified By: CDA Christopher Henzel for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1.(SBU) Summary: Enforcement of a summer mid-day work ban has improved worker welfare. The Ministry of Labor is actively promoting construction sector safety and is reviewing the labor code to modernize safety standards, but struggles with insufficient and under-qualified safety inspectors. End summary. ------------------------- Labor Standards Improving -------------------------

2.(SBU) Enforcement of a labor decree banning outdoor work between noon and 4 p.m. has decreased the number of construction-related heat stroke cases. MOL Safety Engineer/Inspector Hussain Al Hussaini told poloff on Aug 5, that the Ministry of Health had reported no incidents of heat stroke since the ban took effect in July. By comparison, Hussaini continued, the Health Ministry reported five cases of heat stroke in the last two weeks of June. Dr. Cheriyan, emergency department chief at Salmaniya Medical Complex, told the press that the ban has significantly lowered incidents of heat exhaustion to almost half of what they were in June.

3.(SBU) The Occupational Safety Division (OSD) at the Ministry of Labor has run an awareness campaign highlighting construction site dangers and accident avoidance. A newly established Supreme Safety Committee, headed by U/S Jameel Hamadani, is reviewing the 1976 labor code with an eye toward modernizing the safety standards. Hussaini anticipates that the committee will complete its task within two years. ------------------------- Safety Inspectors Lacking -------------------------

4.(SBU) Hussaini complained of a lack of qualified safety inspectors. Of the eight engineers who inspect on behalf of the OSD, none are safety engineers. (Note: Hussaini is a chemical engineer. End Note.) The division is tasked with inspecting all of the nearly 60,000 commercial registrations and company-owned labor camps. Noting that OSD does not have regular training for the inspectors, Hussaini asked whether poloff knew of any exchange programs that inspectors could attend.

5.(SBU) A ministerial order of 2006 stipulates that all companies with more than 100 employees must have a designated safety officer or office, and that office is subject to MOL inspection. According to Hussaini, larger companies such as Aluminum Bahrain (ALBA) and Batelco comply with safety regulations and cooperate with the inspectors, but many family-operated companies balk at implementing the safety regulations or hiring safety officers.

6.(SBU) Bahrain will host the third annual Arabian Conference of Occupational Safety and Health November 4-6. The goal of the conference is to share and develop strategies for a safer, more productive work environment. Participants will include representatives from the International Labor Organization, the United Nations Environment program, World Health Organization, and several NGOs. OSD Chief Ali Abdulla Makki told poloff that he would send an invitation for USG attendance.

7.(C) Comment: Hussaini was open with poloffs, but clammed up when his boss, OSD chief Ali Abdulla Makki, entered the room. Makki had not responded to numerous previous requests for a meeting with EmbOffs. Both expressed admiration for Dr. Majid bin Mohsin Al Alawi, the new minister of labor, and cited him as the impetus behind better safety standards. Implementation of those standards will require additional bodies and training. ********************************************* ******** Visit Embassy Manama's Classified Website: XXXXXXXXXXXX********************************************* ******** HENZEL

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