MUSCAT: The Oil and Gas Sector Labour Union (OGSLU) has warned oilfield contractors against using the pandemic as an excuse to lay off Omani workers in contravention of legal statutes.
It comes as many Omani workers have taken to social media to protest the threatened termination of their services or wage reductions, allegedly in violation of established norms.
Speaking to the Observer, Said Ahmed al Mahrouqi (pictured), Chairman – Oil & Gas Sector Labour Union, acknowledged that the Union has been receiving reports of financially hard-pressed employers apparently taking advantage of the crisis to let go of their workers.
“There is no specific number of those laid off to date, but we are getting semi-weekly, if not daily, updates on the situation. We can say there are notifications of hundreds of layoffs, but there are procedures and controls in place before (companies can go down this road). Also, there is a committee set up in the Ministry of Manpower that is concerned about laid-off Omani workers.”
Oman’s oil and gas companies have begun cutting back on investments in their respective concessions, primarily on account of the dramatic slump in crude prices, but also partly because of measures imposed by authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Oil & Gas Sector Labour Union has been monitoring developments from the outset of the crisis, said Al Mahrouqi. “There is joint cooperation between the Sector Union, the General Federation, Ministry of Manpower, and Ministry of Oil and Gas on the issue of laid-off workers and for their possible redeployment in other jobs. We understand there is also some cooperation between the Ministry of Oil and Gas and Oman Society for Petroleum Services (OPAL) on some labour related proposals.”
The official urged contractors and service providers not to use the pandemic as cover to retrench national workers or reduce their wages. While admitting that the crisis is impacting some companies financially, he however sought to remind employers that they are bound by legal statutes, and more recently, by the directives of the Supreme Committee.
Job losses among expatriate workers, Al Mahrouqi acknowledged, were expected to accelerate going forward as employers are obliged to ease their dependence on foreign labour in line with government policies and guidelines.
Al Mahrouqi thanked the government of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik for the care and concern afforded to workers during this difficult time. Efforts exerted by the authorities, together with the operators, will help sustain the livelihoods of workers, many of whom have loans to repay.
Concluding, he added: “We urge oilfield companies to engage with us in a constructive dialogue that will enable both sides to come up with appropriate solutions to safeguard the interests of workers and employers alike. We request them not to take any (unilateral) decisions in the form of wage cuts or layoffs without getting the sanction of the Ministry of Manpower and other relevant authorities.”
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