Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Strikes Under Oman Law

We have in the past written about the laws relating to settlement of labour disputes and regulating peaceful strikes in Oman, but it seems topical to revisit the relevant laws.

Collective bargaining, settlement of labour disputes and peaceful strikes is governed by the Labour Law (promulgated by Royal Decree 35/2003, as amended) (the “Labour Law”) and Ministerial Decision 294/2006 (the “MD”) which was issued pursuant to the Labour Law.

Procedure of holding a strike

The Labour Law read with the MD provides that the employees’ have the right to hold peaceful strikes in order to demand betterment of working conditions. But, strikes held by employees working in enterprises providing essential services will be considered illegal.

In addition, the MD provides the following procedure for holding a strike:

  1. The employees’ union or representative must provide to the employer at least three weeks prior written notice of the employees intention to hold the strike and the planned date of the strike.
  2. The notice must set forth the reasons for holding the strike as well as the employees’ demands.
  3. A copy of the notice must also be furnished to the Ministry of Manpower (“MOM”) and to the relevant local government authorities.
Failure to follow the foregoing procedure will render a strike unlawful and the period of strike shall be treated as leave without pay. In addition, a strike shall be called off immediately after the parties commence the settlement process pursuant to Article 23 of the MD.

Consequence of an illegal strike

In the event that a strike is illegal or is carried on illegally, the employer has the following two options:
  1. File an emergency application to the Competent Court
    The employer may file an emergency application to the Court seeking an order that the employees return to duty pending the outcome of a Court decision on the referred matter. There may be issues related to filing an emergency application which should be discussed with lawyers/ legal advisors before making an application to the Court.

  2. Take action under Article 40 of the Labour Law
    Clause 9 of Article 40 provides for the dismissal of an employee without prior notice if he commits a grave breach of his obligation to perform his work as agreed in his employment contract. Again, your lawyers should be contacted before taking such an action as there might be issues to be considered prior to sending a termination notice to an employee.

    Firm internal regulations and clear guidelines can mitigate the risk of employees’ dismissal. It is also important that the termination notice is issued as per the prescribed procedure leading to termination.

    In case where the establishment does not have internal regulations duly approved by MOM, the establishment may have to serve a written notice on the basis of the violations committed by the employee under the Labour Law and the MD and then call the employee for a meeting to hear his response to the notice; at the meeting the representatives of the employer will have to put forth the proposed action and record the employee’s response in writing to the proposed action.

    Although following the above process will not entirely eliminate the risk of employee’s claim for unjustified dismissal being successful, it could result in mitigation of the risk substantially.