Muscat: Tanfeedh has proposed that dedicated courts should be set up in the country to resolve labour disputes.
“The development of a judicial system dedicated to labour disputes,which aims to cut down lengthy case resolutions and inconsistent judgments that hinder the ease of doing business in Oman, is needed,” according to Tanfeedh.
“It (dedicated courts) will reduce the average length of labour disputes from 585 days to 204, which is,on average,a 30 per cent reduction in time,” Tanfeedh said.
In August, the Times of Oman reported that delays in resolving labour disputes hurt employees in Oman.
At present, Oman does not have a dedicated court to deal with labour disputes.
In April, Said Salem Al Saadi, the advisor to the Minister of Manpower, told the Times of Oman that the government was considering setting up a court to deal exclusively with labour cases.
“The process is underway. The ministry is keen on protecting workers’ rights and it always works for the welfare of workers,” the advisor said.
Last September, while meeting Oman officials, Sharan Burrow, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), had proposed the idea of setting up a court exclusively for resolving labour disputes.
Workers and trade unionists have welcomed Tanfeedh’s proposal.
Mohammed Khaldi, a trade union activist in Oman, said that putting in place a judicial system to deal exclusively with labour cases would be a blessing for workers.
“When workers face legal disputes with employers, undoubtedly we can say that employees are the ones who suffer. In many cases, to get a dispute settled, it may take at least two years. Those who do not want to get tangled in the fight will have to accept injustice,” Khaldi said.
He added that the government should review the current mechanism and seriously consider setting up a labour court.
Currently, employers fail to attend settlement meetings at labour dispute departments and the cases move to court, leaving employees in the lurch.
“In the current mechanism, employers are not bound to attend the settlement meetings convened to resolve labour disputes. So, most often they do not turn up. Eventually, the case is forwarded to the court and the stranded worker who will be struggling for food and shelter every day will be neck-deep in trouble,” Shaji Sebastin, an Indian social worker and a resident of Oman for the last 30 years, said.
In Oman, three employee-employer meetings are held at the Ministry of Manpower’s labour dispute departments over a 45-day period to help settle disputes.
If the employer fails to turn up for the meetings,or even if they appear and fail to reach an agreement with the workers, then the dispute is forwarded to the court.
Mohammed Farji, another trade union leader, said that unions have, in the past, urged the ministry to take a serious look at the issue. Tanfeedh has proposed what workers and unions have been saying for long, he remarked.
“If an employee wins a case in the court where the employer had failed to turn up in the labour dispute department, then the employer should be penalised,” Farji added.