Muscat: Labour law disputes will soon be settled faster with the introduction of a training programme for workers by the manpower ministry.
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Specialised programmes are being organised by the manpower ministry to train government staff to deal more effectively with labour law disputes. A Ministry of Manpower official has confirmed that training programmes for specialists in the field of labour disputes, with the involvement of legal experts, will begin soon.
The ministry is keen to press ahead with recommendations given after the Tanfeedh labs, a series of workshops designed to realign Oman’s economy and diversify away from oil and gas.
One of the key proposals was a fast-track court to deal with labour law disputes, including specially trained ministry staff and judges.
Currently, disputes can take months to settle. “The Team for Judicial Reform and Development of the Judicial System in relation to the Labour Market is continuing its meetings to discuss specialised training programmes for workers in the field of labour dispute research, with a number of jurists in cooperation with the Higher Judicial Institute,” the ministry official said.
The ministry official confirmed that the meetings are designed to strengthen the judicial system with regards to the labour sector by activating proposed plans within Tanfeedh.
“This is part of the initiative to develop and improve the judicial system related to the labour market within the labour market sector, and to activate Tanfeedh initiatives,” he said.
In a roadmap of recommendations from the labs, Tanfeedh 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,” Tanfeedh reported.
According to the Tanfeedh proposal, dedicated courts will reduce the average length of labour disputes from 585 days to 204, which on average reflect a 30 per cent reduction.
Ahmed Al Hooti, an Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) member, hoped that this would further improve the private sector in Oman.
“All of these proposals are positive and work to advance the situation with the private sector, which gives the private sector further ability to compete, further liberties, and further ability to overcome the current challenges and obstacles. The topic of efficiency in labour disputes appears to be among the top priorities and interests,” he said.
However, Al Hooti emphasised the importance of experience over training, with regards to labour issues.
“First of all, individuals with specialised training must have experience. It is not enough to just train or study this topic - it is equally important that these individuals also have experience with handling and dealing with labour cases, as well as cases relating to expat and Omani employment within the private sector,” Al Hooti explained.
He also hoped that the progress with the Tanfeedh proposals would speed up court proceedings for all parties.
“Today, we have disputes and problems that are qualitative in nature, which are presented to the judiciary, and take a very long time to be resolved. This waiting period in itself is what causes problems with private sector companies, as well as employees in the sector.”
“Therefore, the existence of these experts with knowledge, awareness and experience will enable us, without a doubt, to ease judiciary procedure, and each party receiving their fair dues quickly.
What we are most concerned with is the speed of the legal process and its procedures, and that the laws are just and fair to all parties, regardless of whether it’s a company or an employee,” he added. Mohammed Farji, a trade unionist in Oman, believes that a speedy remedy for labour disputes is a positive move.
“Now, in some cases, it takes a long time, putting the affected worker into more trouble. The government should consider the Tanfeedh proposals to help the workers, who get stuck during these disputes,” the trade unionists told Times of Oman recently.
One worker, who hasn’t been paid in months, said: “This is good news for workers as most of the people don’t approach courts as it takes a lot of time.”
A Bangladesh Embassy official agreed. “We normally try to settle disputes between the sponsors and employees amicably. If the matter is not resolved, then we suggest the workers to approach the court,” the official said, adding “it is always better to solve the issues amicably as court judgments take a lot of time.”