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In April 2011, the Department of Labor (DOL) received a submission from the AFL-CIO with a statement from the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions alleging that Bahrain had violated its commitments under the Labor Chapter of the Bahrain – United States Free Trade Agreement regarding the right of association, particularly non-discrimination against trade unionists.
The review process was extended to adequately consider detailed and voluminous information received from the Government of Bahrain and Bahraini workers, amendments to the Bahraini Trade Union Law, and labor-related developments in international fora regarding Bahrain, in particular at the International Labor Organization. In addition, two delegations visited Bahrain in October 2011 and February 2012 as part of the review.
After reviewing the submission, DOL issued a public report in December 2012 finding that trade unionists and leaders were targeted for dismissal, and in some cases prosecuted, in part for their role in organizing and participating in the March 2011 general strike, and that dismissals also reflected discrimination based, in part, on political opinion and activities. The report also finds religious (sectarian) discrimination against Shia workers. The report also makes specific recommendations intended to serve as a road map for the Consultation process moving forward.
On May 6, 2013, the U.S. Government formally requested cooperative labor consultations with Bahrain in a joint letter from the Acting Secretary of Labor and the U.S. Trade Representative. During the consultations, the U.S. Government will discuss the DOL report’s findings, conclusions, and recommendations with the Government of Bahrain. The report's recommendations should also serve as a basis for joint development of an action plan that includes concrete steps that the Government of Bahrain can take to address the concerns raised in the report. We expect that consultations will lead to a better understanding by the Government of Bahrain of its FTA labor commitments and the steps needed to uphold them.