Suspension sparks postal staff protest Unionists allege harassment by govt Sandeep Singh Grewal Staff Reporter

The suspension of Postal Workers Union (PWU) office-bearers took a turn for the worse yesterday with the government probe panel summoning president Jamal Atteq Juma for explanation for hobnobbing with the Press. As hundreds protested against the suspension of vice-chairman of PWU Najeeha Abdul Ghaffar outside the Muharraq post office yesterday, Juma told the Tribune that the panel had asked him to be present tomorrow and explain why he aired his grievances to the media. Incidentally, Najeeha has also been suspended for the same reason. She received a 10–day suspension notice effective from yesterday. She will not be paid wages for the period according to a copy of the notice secured by the Tribune. “I did not invite the Press during my five-day hunger strike in December. The authorities want to put pressure on us by pressing baseless charges,” said Juma. He said the notice handed by the Postal Directorate at the Ministry of Transport and the Civil Service Bureau asks him to attend the probe panel meet. “They are pressing the same charges against me which I am not ready to accept. They could suspend me for 10 days like Najeeha,” he said. Meanwhile, unionists showed up in full strength demanding the management to revoke the 10-day suspension notice given to Najeeha. “ We are calling upon the ministry to reverse their decision of suspending Najeeha. They cannot continue harassing unionists,” said Abbas Bahari from the Bahrain Nursing Society. The General Secretary of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, Abdul Qaffar Abdulla said that a complaint has been lodged at the International Labour Organisation highlighting the plights of Najeeha and Juma. “We have sent letters to the Minister of Labour and taken the case of PWU at the ILO. The government should stop harassing unionists and allow trade unions to be formed in public sector,” he said. Najeeha’s case has also been taken up by the Women’s Trade Union at the Arab Women Organisation. “We will be holding a series of meeting with government bodies regarding Najeeha’s case,” said Women Union head Suad Mubarak. Several employees of the Muharraq post office stayed away from the protest in fear of facing problems with the management. Tribune spoke to Najeeha who thanked all the unionists to show their support. She said her case hearing was slated tomorrow and did not want to make any comments as it could affect the case. Ibrahim Sharif, a political activist, urged the authorities to unionise government employees. “The authorities are talking about forming multiple trade unions which could encourage sectarian problems in companies. Bahrain signed the Free Trade Agreement with the US which demands human rights respect and recognition of trade unions.”