Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trade Unions

According to Ministerial Decision 570 of 2012 promulgating the formation, functioning and registration of trade syndicates, trade unions and general federation of Oman trade unions (the “2012 MD”) a trade union can be formed by any private sector organization with the employee strength of 25 or more and, once registered, has an independent legal identity. In addition to having at least 25 members, a trade union is eligible for registration upon having a draft statute and such other documents specified in Article 5 of the 2012 MD.

The purpose of trade unions

The Oman Labour Law promulgated by Royal Decree No. 35 of 2003, as amended (the “OLL”), provides that workers may form among themselves trade unions/syndicates for the purposes of (a) protecting their interests, (b) defending their rights, (c) improving their financial and social status, and (d) representing them in all issues related to their affairs.

Specifically, Article 8 of the 2012 MD provides that a registered trade union can exercise the following rights:

  1. Represent its members and defend their interests.
  2. Represent any of its members at their request.
  3. Collect the affiliation fees and subscription set for the membership and manage its assets.
  4. Exercise any activity related to the promotion and protection of the rights and interests of its members, in particular:
    • ensuring the members’ safety and health;
    • raising the trade union’s awareness among members;
    • raising the members’ culture, technical and occupational level; and
    • improving the members’ health, economic and social level.
  5. Lodge complaints before the competent department at the Ministry of Manpower (the “MOM”) arising from the establishment’s non-compliance with the provisions of the OLL and its implementing decisions and regulations.
  6. Peruse the OLL and its implementing decisions and regulations guaranteeing the rights and interest of the workers at the establishment.
  7. Obtain all necessary facilities from the establishment for the performance of its activities in addition to the appropriate premises for holding its meetings and keeping its documents.
Article 17 of the 2012 MD further sets out restrictions that prohibit trade unions from engaging in the following activities:
  1. investments of the trade union’s fund in financial speculations, in unsafe investments, or in investments contradicting its objectives or purposes;
  2. for engaging in political activities or any activity which is not specified in its statute;
  3. accepting gifts and donations, unless with the MOM’s approval, in which case gifts and donations must be unconditional and not contradictory to the objectives and purposes of the trade union’s activity and to the laws in force in the Sultanate; or
  4. assigning its assets whether in rem or in cash.
The Employee’s Rights

Pursuant to Article 108 of the OLL, the basic right of employees to form a trade union is to safeguard their interests; defend their rights and improve their materialist and social condition; and represent them on all matters relating to their affairs.

According to Article 112 of the OLL, an employer who prevents its employees from carrying out their labour union activities, or hinders the formation of labour unions or the General Federation of employees, shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding one month, and a fine of not more than RO 500, or one of the two penalties.

The Company’s Role in the Formation and Operation of Trade Unions

Whilst there is no statutory provision that defines employer’s rights and the formation and operation of trade unions, it is important to note the following:
  1. The OLL provides that a trade union/labour federation/general federation have the right to freely practise their activity without interference in their affairs or exerting influence.
  2. No company/establishment can dismiss or otherwise punish a worker’s representative in the trade union/labour federation/general federation by reason of exercising trade union activities.
  3. In the event of collective negotiations being conducted between a company/establishment and the representatives of a trade union, the company is obliged to provide necessary data and information to conduct the negotiation.
  4. Whilst the negotiation between a company and the representatives of a trade union are ongoing, any measures or decisions taken by the company shall be considered unlawful.
  5. In the event that a collective labour agreement is concluded between a company and trade union in accordance with Article 5 of Ministerial Decision 294 of 2006, it is the employer’s responsibility to display the collective labour agreement prominently at the work place.