Workers unpaid for three months get no help from Employment Security Scheme
News has reached the Omani Centre for Human Rights (OCHR) of complaints that 37 Omani nationals working for Middle East Bridge Corporation have not received their salaries for the past three months. Middle East Bridge, which is privately owned by an Omani citizen, operates in the oil and gas industry as a direct contractor for government-owned Petroleum Development Oman (PDO). According to the employer, one reason for falling behind in paying the salaries owed – ranging from 400 to 3,000 riyals per month – is that PDO has not been paying its invoices. Among the other reasons he has given are that he has to keep up debt repayments and is having problems dealing with the bank.
Because the employer kept promising to make the salary payments they were due, the employees continued to work in the oilfields and did not make a formal complaint immediately after the first delay in paying their salaries. Nor did they complain that their monthly salaries had previously not been paid on a fixed day or date, but on a movable date that could change without reason or prior agreement. This caused problems for the employees and put them in the difficult situation of being unable to manage monthly commitments such as cheque payments, bank loan repayments and other bills. This practice is in breach of the Omani Labour Law, Article 51 of which states that “in all cases the salary must be paid within (7) seven days from the end of the period in which it becomes due”.
The Centre was also informed of other violations by the employer, including his refusal to give employees their monthly pay slips for no apparent reason. In addition, the employer had not been making the necessary adjustments to the salaries received each month by workers covered by social insurance, and this was affecting their pension entitlement. People covered by social insurance receive lower salaries than other employees, because of having their social insurance contributions deducted.
In 2020 Royal Decree No. 82/2020 ordered the establishment of the Employment Security Scheme, adding a further 1% on top of the previous rate of deductions (7%) – bringing the total monthly deduction from employees’ paypackets to 8% – for the benefit of workers subjected to mass dismissals.
It was also claimed that Middle East Bridge neglected or omitted to pay the actual amount of contributions to the Social Insurance Fund, which is calculated at 1% of the contribution salary for those covered by the Employment Security Scheme, depending on which Pension or Social Insurance Scheme they are registered with. This reported negligence also extended to a failure to pay 11.5% each month of the pay of those covered by social insurance to the Public Authority for Social Insurance.
This incident illustrates a failure on the part of the Ministry of Labour to guarantee the right to security of employment and enforce the labour laws, as well as a lack of financial transparency in the way payments are made under the Employment Security and Social Insurance schemes. The Ministry of Labour also failed to expedite the payment of the money due to these workers as soon as it received formal notifications from them, and did nothing to protect them against the intransigence of the employer.
This demonstrates the discrepancy between reality and the idealised vision of providing a life of dignity and job security for Omani citizens, the vision promoted by the government in issuing a decree to establish the Employment Security and Social Insurance schemes. The social principles underlying the Social Insurance Law and Schemes can be found in Article 12 of the Basic Statute of the State (Oman’s constitution), which says that “the State guarantees aid for the citizen and his family in cases of emergency”, “enacts laws for the protection of the employee and the employer and regulates the relationship between them”, and guarantees “fair remuneration”.
The loss of job security, and the lack of public trust that the authorities responsible, such as the Ministry of Labour and Social Development and the executive authorities generally, are prepared to protect their basic rights – like being paid the salary agreed for the work specified – is a catastrophe at both the national and the personal level, given the harm that can be done to those affected in both material and psychological ways, such as constant anxiety.
The OCHR urges the authorities concerned in Oman to update or change the laws so as to guarantee all of the rights of employees, and to safeguard their futures in the event of arbitrary dismissal or loss of their jobs.
 Sultanate of Oman, Ministry of Manpower, 2012. Labour Law 2003. https://omanportal.gov.om/wps/wcm/connect/ac78dc4f-69f0-4ddd-ad36-eefb357a43f6/Omani+Labour+Law.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
 Public Authority for Social Insurance. Employment Security Scheme. https://www.pasi.gov.om/#employment-security-scheme
 Public Authority for Social Insurance. The Social Insurance Law and Schemes, Issue 1/2019. https://www.pasi.gov.om/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/englishlaw.pdf