Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 14:04 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Oman

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Oman, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd889303c.html [accessed 17 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 2,800,000
Capital: Muscat

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Strikes and demonstrations persuaded the Sultan to introduce a few timid reforms. Migrant workers are still being exploited.

Background

Inspired by the protest movements in the Middle East and North Africa, demonstrators demanded political reform and protested against unemployment and corruption.

In February and March the Head of State, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said, in power for the last 40 years, gave in to some demands, including job creation, higher unemployment benefit and the dismissal of several ministers. The Sultan also announced that some legislative powers would be handed over to the Consultative Council, a body elected by universal suffrage which gives its opinion on the government's economic and social policies. All important decisions remain in the Sultan's hands, however.

From February to May, thousands of Omanis came out onto the streets to demand reform, job creation, an end to corruption and the resignation of some high-ranking officials perceived as corrupt. These demonstrations were accompanied by strikes, notably in the civil service, the oil industry, private security guards and in the industrial zones (mainly to demand higher salaries).

Although the demonstrations were tolerated at first, several were harshly repressed between February and May in the towns of Sohar, Mascate, Sur and Salala. Many demonstrators were injured, some fatally, and many others arrested, some of whom were imprisoned. In June, 15 demonstrators in Sohar were sentenced to between 6 months and 15 years in prison. Several other activists who campaigned for reform were threatened, intimidated, and in some cases abducted and beaten.

The authorities continue to restrict freedom of expression. In the last few years, several bloggers and journalists have been intimidated, and in some cases detained, for criticising the government. In October the law on the press and public relations was changed to ban any publication which, according to the government, could undermine the security of the State or domestic or external security. On 31 December, an appeal court in Mascate confirmed the sentences of Yusef al Haj and Ibrahim al Maamary, a journalist and the editor-in-chief respectively of the Azzamn newspaper, and Haroon al Muqaibli, an employee at the Ministry of Justice, to five months imprisonment for an article denouncing suspected corruption within the Justice ministry. They were found guilty of "insulting" the Minister of Justice. The court also ordered Azzamn to be closed down for one month.

Trade union rights in law

Despite recent improvements to trade union rights, problematic areas remain in the law. Two decrees adopted in 2006 and 2007 grant workers the right to form trade unions, when previously only "representation committees" were allowed. More than one union can now operate per company, and employers are prohibited from punishing or dismissing workers for union activities. However, the reference to the "General Federation of the Sultanate of Oman" implies a monopoly with a single trade union federation. The Ministry of Employment may also refuse to register a union "if it is not convinced" that all the requirements have been met. Furthermore, there must be at least 25 employees for a union to be formed, regardless of the size of the company, and security and government personnel are not allowed to organise. Trade union activities are restricted by the requirement that unions notify the government at least one month in advance of union meetings.

While wages and working conditions were previously set by law or individual contracts, workers are now allowed to carry out collective bargaining. Still, the procedures for calling a lawful strike are cumbersome, as a strike must be supported by an absolute majority of the workforce, and notice of the strike must be given to the employer at least three weeks in advance.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Labour inspection over centralised: Over one hundred labour inspectors went on strike in March, demanding notably more scope to take decisions at the grass roots level. The inspectors pointed out that the efficiency of their work was being impaired by administrative over-centralisation.

Exploitation of migrant workers:

According to 2010 estimates, there are approximately 826,000 migrant workers in Oman, a third of whom work in the construction sector. They generally work and live in appalling conditions as their fundamental rights are ignored by employers, a situation facilitated by the lack of government inspections. Migrant domestic workers are the most vulnerable, and are often the victims of all sorts of exploitation and abuse including physical and psychological violence. Employers usually confiscate migrant workers' passports, even though the law bans them from doing so.

Owing to the "kafala" (sponsorship) system, migrant workers cannot change employers without their first employer's consent. The authorities are trying to find an alternative to this system, in cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Violations

No entry for this country for this year

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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