A NEWLY-FORMED trade union has questioned why the country's labour law does not include a minimum wage for Bahrainis and expatriates.
The Bahrain Labour Union Free Federation (BLUFF), formed last month, wants separate pay grades for Bahrainis and expatriates.
It welcomed additional legislation that will help protect the rights of citizens and foreign workers, but said a minimum wage was crucial to prevent exploitation.
"The new labour law is comprehensive and manages to address issues that were not dealt with before such as proper contractual terms for domestic workers," said BLUFF internal and external relations head Ali Albinali.
"But it is a missing minimum wage for skilled and unskilled local and foreign workers which is important as it will set a formal pay structure in different categories."
Bahrainis are presently entitled to a minimum salary of BD400 for graduates and BD250 for non-graduates, but the union says this is not laid down in law.
Mr Albinali said Bahrain had the chance to become the first country in the Gulf to guarantee a minimum wage for its foreign workers.
"A worker who is in Bahrain has no option but to work even if he is underpaid despite being qualified and a labourer has no option but to accept whatever his boss pays," he said.
"But our aim is to protect all workers by setting a minimum wage to put an end to abuse of low-paid workers."
BLUFF members met Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan and officials from the ministry at its headquarters in Isa Town, where they presented their views.
The government last month said a new minimum wage system was being studied that could reduce unemployment and increase Bahrainisation in the private sector
"This new labour law will also deal with ghost workers hired to avoid Bahrainisation quota and also protect domestic workers," said Mr Albinali.
BLUFF members requested the ministry to do something to correct the false image of Bahrain portrayed to the international community by politicians and unionists.
"We have seen that International Labour Organisation and other groups are all misinformed about Bahrain," said Mr Albinali.
"It's time they should be aware of what actually happened in Bahrain and also that it is on the path of recovery."
BLUFF was launched in competition with the existing General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, which was previously the only umbrella organisation grouping together unions in different sectors.
Its founders describe the new labour federation as an independent body that represents the interests of both Bahrainis and expatriates, without any political agenda and has more than 5,000 members.
The new labour law was ratified by His Majesty King Hamad last month. However, the private sector has been given six months to review it and come up with by-laws before it is fully implemented.
It states domestic workers will be employed under proper contractual terms in line with humanitarian and work-related regulations of all private sector employees.
It will replace the previous labour law for the private sector issued nearly 36 years ago and employers who violate the new law will face fines of up to BD500.