Muscat: The establishment of The General Federation of Oman Trade Unions has significantly reduced the number of complaints about breaches of labour laws in the last four years, as the Sultanate looks to ensure workers are fairly treated by companies.
Since they began operations in 2014, the GFOTU has received 2,559 reports and complaints. Besides not complying with the provisions of labour laws, other cases registered were non-compliance with occupational health and safety requirements; salaries not being paid on time; collective layoffs and random dismissal of workers; not issuing emergency leave and compensation for overtime.
The federation recorded 479 workers complaints and cases in 2018, which is a 14 per cent decrease compared to 2017 when they recorded 558 complaints. However, the fall in the number of complaints could be due to the increase in inspection trips arranged by the Federation: over the past three years, the GFOTU has more than tripled its field visits to establishments from 32 in 2015 to 109 in 2018.
The GFOTU was established under Royal Decree No 74/2006 to represent the Sultanate’s workers before official authorities and local, regional and international forums, and Nabhan Al Batashi, Chairman of the General Federation of Oman Trade Unions, explained the impact that the presence of this organisation has had.
“The activation of trade unions in institutions has significantly brought down the number of the labour complaints,” he confirmed. “In addition to the increase in awareness and training, field visits by the federation to companies as well as individuals have also contributed in bringing down the number of cases.”
In addition, Ahmed Al Hooti, Board Member and head of Economic Study of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) added that quickly resolving worker complaints was the best way for Omani companies to ensure they remained productive and sustainable in the long-term, adding that a company was only as good as its workers.
“It is important indeed to solve employee problems quickly, because we need a skilled workforce. Because of he numbers we have today, you will find many unqualified people in jobs, having claimed they are trained. However, they only start their training once they join the company. What we are looking at in the future is to have companies which help the economy by getting better-qualified workers across different sectors”.
Al Hooti added, “It is the same with the Omanis. These companies can offer skills based training courses and at the same time conduct job interviews on behalf of employers; these qualified workers would then be available for work either in the private sector or for the government. Most of our companies today are focusing on low salary levels for affordable labour, but this cannot be the only criteria. We must push the private sector towards taking those people who are skilled, qualified, and useful for developing businesses and helping to create more jobs through innovation.
The GFOTU’s recent performance report examined its achievements during the first phase of the Federation from 2014 to 2018 which focused on workers in the private sector, trade union and related issues. The report revealed that 410 of the complaints recorded last year were general inquiries or individual labour complaints, while 44 were collective labour disputes, 20 were trade union cases, and five were issues concerning the formation of trade unions.
Among the main aim of visits by the trade unions federation is to follow up on employee conditions and to discuss the difficulties faced by trade unions within the company. During these visits, the Federation follows up the implementation progress of the agreements signed between workers and employers and monitors any violations, in collaboration with the relevant authorities.
Zaid Al Shukaili, Assistant Dean of Administration and Human Resources at Waljat College of Applied Science, told Times of Oman, “We all know that businesses become more successful as their employees become more skilled. When a skilled employee also has job security, business can thrive. An employee’s competency, which is key to an employer, is dependent on the support and training offered to them. This takes the form of workshops, courses, local and regional seminars, as well as their work itself serving as training.
“At the same time, the employee must know that they also have a responsibility to be reflective and willing to improve,” he added. “I would not be able to manage my own business on my own. Every business owner needs to be able to rely on his or her employees at some point, giving them their own responsibilities as appropriate. Employees should also have the correct outlook. It is absolutely in a company’s best interests to improve the lifestyles of their employees”