'Expat workers should get minimum wage in Oman’
June 16, 2015 | 9:37 PM
by REJIMON K, Fahad Ghadani
“If anyone gets less than they were promised they should approach the ministry of manpower or their ministries.” - Times photo

Muscat: A call for expat workers in Oman to get a guaranteed minimum wage under revised labour laws has come from a leading trade union member in the Sultanate.

“At present, there is no mention of minimum wages in the labour law either for nationals or migrant workers. However, in 2013, a ministerial decree ensured that nationals were guaranteed a minimum wage, even though it was not mentioned in the labour law,” Mohammed Al Khaldi, board member of General Federation of Oman Trade Union (GFOTU), told the Times of Oman.

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“But the migrant worker was left in the lurch. Bringing in a system can improve the entire labour system in Oman,” said Mohammed Al Khaldi.

In 2013, the Ministry of Manpower issued Decree No. 222, which mandated, effective from July 1, 2013, that the minimum salary of Omanis working in the private sector was to be increased to OMR325 from the existing OMR200. Accordingly, private sector establishments were told to increase the minimum salaries of Omani employees being paid less than OMR325.

The call to introduce minimum wages for migrant workers has not been welcomed by all though.

Ahmed Al Busaidi, Majlis Al Shura member, said he felt that there is no need to consider such a move as it would complicate the labour market. “Wages should be decided between the employers and employees,” he said.

Al Busaidi also added, “If anyone gets less than they were promised they should approach the ministry of manpower or their ministries.”

Negative consequences

Ahmed Al Hooti, member of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also feels that introducing such rules would lead to negative consequences.

It is important to see that migrant workers get what they are promised at the time of recruitment rather than ensuring a minimum wages for them, he said.

However Shaji Sebastin, a Muscat-based social worker, said, “If the new labour law guarantees minimum wage system for migrant workers too, it would be a great move. This can solve a lot of Omani labour market issues. Of course, in the job contract, the salary is mentioned. But as minimum wage is not a rule for migrant workers in Oman even when they are doing the same job, migrant workers get employed for different salaries.”

Shaji added, “Minimum wage can also help migrant workers’ home country governments to prepare their citizens while they are getting ready to take up jobs in Oman. When the guarantee comes from the labour law, the migrant can feel more secure. It can protect migrant workers from being denied decent salaries.”

The Indian government has been planning to reject emigration clearance to the Gulf countries if they do not agree to pay recommended minimum wages prescribed by its embassies for different categories of Indian workers.

As per an agreement between Oman and India, “the minimum salary of the housemaid should be OMR75- (Omani Rial seventy-five) per month. Besides sponsor will have to provide bank guarantee of OMR1,100 as security deposit to the Embassy of India, Muscat. The deposit shall be used for any unpaid dues, salary and legal obligations. The deposit shall be paid to sponsor after he/she produces visa cancellation/transfer papers and a letter from housemaid specifying that all dues have been paid.”

A senior official at International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) hoped that the new labour law will consider provisions which guarantee equal benefits and wages for both national workers and migrant workers in Oman.

Progressive steps

“Oman has taken progressive steps in the past when compared to their neighbours with regard to the rights of workers. As trade unions were also involved in the process of making the new labour law, we hope that there will not be any discrimination against migrant workers when compared to Omanis in terms of wages and benefits,” Walid Hamdan, ITUC’s regional lead organiser for Arab states, told the Times of Oman.

While commenting on the two-year visa ban for migrant workers who fail to submit a no-objection certificate from the previous employer, the official said this issue has also been seriously discussed.

Right to mobility

“Oman will have reasons to implement such a decision. However, we are aware that the issue of a migrant worker’s rights to mobility is being seriously discussed. We hope that Oman has a solution soon,” added the official.

Meanwhile, the Oman trade union also added that the government should reverse the decision and find a workable solution to streamline the labour market.

“We are aware that existing projects are being delayed and new ones are stuck due to a shortage of migrant workers. It is the paucity of legal workers which persuades companies to depend on illegal workers,” said the trade union leader, citing the recent arrest of illegal workers at the airport project site.

Reporters can be reached at [email protected]/[email protected]

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