Period of Direct Hiring Ends, Bapco and Power Authority Job Privatization Enter into Force with Huge Tenders

2019-04-12 - 4:34 am

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco) and the Electricity and Water Authority have started to abandon a large part of their operations for private companies, including the supply of manpower to carry out specific tasks such as maintenance and operation, under the supervision of engineers in the two institutions.

The new policy in the two big bodies is one of the most dangerous steps in the Bahraini government's strategy to reduce public expenditure by stopping direct hiring, privatizing operations and maintenance processes, despite the escalating of unemployment crisis among Bahrainis, and the sweep of foreigners in the labor market, as well as the suffering of thousands of employees in the private sector from low salaries.

In the three large tenders opened on Thursday (March 28, 2019), Bapco company and the electricity and Water Authority have entrusted a large part of their operations and maintenance to private companies, including the supply of specialized manpower to perform the tasks required in the job site within secondary contracts.

The tenders did not provide for the hiring of Bahrainis to the winning contractors, making the door open to the supply of more cheap foreign labor, to achieve the greatest possible profits.

The Electricity and Water Authority will entrust one of the private companies to supply skilled manpower to Hawar power and water station in Hawar islands, for a period of three years, through a tender in which the lowest bids offered in was more than 359 thousand dinars (about 952 thousand dollars).

Workers employed within secondary contracts will have to carry out all the jobs given to them by the station engineer independently with less supervision, according to the tender.

Bapco Company has entrusted all the routine maintenance services, including the provision of manpower, to a private company in a tender whose lowest bids offered by Nass Company reached 21 million dollars.

Bapco also opened another tender in which it entrusted a private company specialized in work services in the land and roads in the operating areas, including management, supervision and manpower supply. The lowest bids for this tender amounted to 4.7 million dinars, by Abdulkarim Al-Jahroumi contracting company.

The privatization of jobs in ministries, governmental and semi-governmental institutions and companies is not a new idea. It is made in order to avoid bearing the costs of employing Bahrainis with the employment features imposed by the staff of these institutions and companies. These institutions have intended, with a government cover, to make contracts with private companies to take responsibility for part of their operations (in a partial way), in some sectors, the first of which was the customer service sector.

Call Centers for many ministries and agencies have had their operations entrusted to private companies, most importantly "Invita" and "Silah Gulf" companies, without any conditions or criteria for recruitment. Meanwhile Batelco (owned by the government) has assigned part of the customer services operations to private companies that recruit and do part of the operation on its behalf, to get rid of jobs burden.

External outsourcing of jobs has already existed in a number of companies, such as the Bahrain Aluminium Company "Alba", in which hundreds of Bahrainis, including engineers work within cheap secondary contracts, in order to get rid of their direct employment burdens, including high employee benefits, and to keep the road open to cancel their jobs whenever required.

Well-informed people say that these operations have been greatly exacerbated in Alba, and that a large number of Bahraini engineers and technicians have been employed in such a way and with wages that do not exceed the minimum wage in the private sector, which is almost half of the wage earned by the engineer who is directly employed in this company.

Instead of the government imposing any regulations or restrictions on these operations in order to protect the Bahraini worker, it has resorted to its implementation in its ministries and subsidiaries. It has also even invested directly in them. In August 2018, the government entered as a formal partner in the "Silah Gulf" company, one of the companies that work in operating and managing call centers.

This new business model has a strong impact on the Bahraini employment market, by removing any responsibility of the institutions and bodies contracted with the employment suppliers, as they are officially registered on their behalf, even if they are administratively affiliated to these institutions and bodies and work for them.

Over the past years, the work of the company and that of others raised great controversy, after their model caused a significant drop in the salary level of thousands of Bahrainis even those who have experiences (always to the minimum), as well as their loss of job security, and deregulation of their foreign rivals, by legalizing the escape from Bahrainization trap through the back door.

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