More women in Oman joining trade unions

Energy Saturday 08/September/2018 20:58 PM
By: Times News Service
More women in Oman joining trade unions

Muscat: More women are joining trade unions as they have begun to realise the potential for their voices to be heard, especially in cases involving harassment at the workplace, say trade unionists.
“Women have a voice that can reach the highest levels of management in any company,” said Amna Al Mamari, member of the trade union at VALE Oman Pelletizing Company.
“I was subjected to verbal harassment by a colleague of mine at work, but I did not stay silent and I stood up for myself and filed a complaint against him. He was forced to sign a pledge,” said a woman who faced harassment at work.
“I call on every working woman that is subjected to blackmail or harassment of any kind, not to stay silent. There are laws and regulations that protect us; the Sultanate is a country that respects women and respects their rights,” she added.
The General Federation of Oman Trade Unions (GFOTU) held a workshop, where various trade unions from around Oman participated to learn about the general rights of employees, methods of negotiation and the role of trade unions.
Among the 23 participants, 12 were men and 11 were women, representing their trade unions from sectors such as logistics, banking, hospitality, and oil and gas.
“Female employees that face harassment at work will not feel comfortable speaking to a man about what they have been through; that is why it is better to have a woman in a labour union that can listen to and support her,” said Hadeel Hassan, a Bank Dhofar trade union member.
“Women are half of the society, therefore if there is a lack of female representation in trade unions or employment in general, it means that we are only using half of society’s capability,” said Mahboob Al Ruheili, member of the board of directors at GFOTU.
“The federation will continue to support all employees that face any form of harassment at work,” said an official from GFOTU.
“Sadly, the process that employees go through when reporting harassment at work is not easy, as they first must face the management at work, then the Ministry of Manpower, and finally the Public Prosecution. Many people are not comfortable following through with their complaints and therefore it is our job to ensure that we help and stand by them as much as we can.”
Al Mamari’s trade union has managed to achieve various demands that benefitted female employees such as “reducing working hours during pregnancies and allocating an hour a day after delivery for feeding for one year. We have also managed to request that the prayer room be moved closer to the building so that women will not have to walk in the heat for long”.
Maiyada Al Sabahi from the trade union of Oman Wastewater Services Company spoke about their future plans. “Currently, we are working on requesting a nursery to be provided at work to help female employees, in addition to increasing maternity leave from 50 days to 60-90 days.”
As more employees begin to learn about the benefits of the role that trade unions play in preserving the rights of all workers, memberships have been on the rise.
“Currently, there are 50 women in our trade union compared to 200 men, but the number of female fresh graduates that are joining is increasing,” Al Mamari added.
Rise in numbers
Hassan, who has been a member of Bank Dhofar trade union since its initiation, has seen first-hand the influx of female members. “There has definitely been an increase in the number of women in our trade union because they realised that there is a voice for them, and the voice is heard.”
Despite the rising number of female members, male employees have also been joining trade unions, and eventually they all share a common goal.
“We work for everyone,” said Hassan, who is the only female member in the Bank Dhofar trade union committee. “It is not just for females, we are fighting for the rights of all workers.”
“The Omani Labour Law does not differentiate between Omanis or expat labourers in terms of their rights or working hours,” said Al Ruheili.
According to Al Ruheili, despite the increasing number of females joining the union, it is still low compared to the number of men, which is due to social standards and incorrect mentalities.
“These factors can all change if we introduce ideas such as women empowerment in trade unions and the workplace. We must change the idea that women are less productive than men, this needs to be combated through awareness campaigns; there is no difference between the two.”
Role of trade unions
Basira Al Harmali joined the trade union of Muscat Grand Hyatt Hotel this year. She said, “in my opinion, people are still hesitant about joining because they do not understand the idea behind trade unions. People just want their demands to be met as soon as possible without considering the procedures that trade unions must undergo to achieve such demands.”
A trade union has the capability to bridge the gap between the worker and the employer, and is therefore a key player in the labour market, “Trade unions are not here to fight business owners, we are here to promote transparency and to synergise between the two parties for a better work environment,” Hassan added.