Saturday, June 2, 2012

Recent News about PDO Strike and Detention of Three Activists

Last week staff from PDO contractors went on 'strike' demanding better benefits. Technically, it is illegal to strike as there is no organised labor in the Sultanate. Last Thursday, three activists who stood with the PDO demonstrators were detained and no one has been able see them since. Today, there was news of a small band of protesters rallying in Muscat for their release. 

It is reported that the situation is calming down and most workers reportedly have returned to work and talks are in progress. Apparently, members of the Shura Council went out on their own accord in a non-official capacity to meet with workers on the oil fields to help resolve the situation. 

Since last year's protests, the government has been working hard to address some of the issues and has implemented some changes including but not limited to: the shuffling and sacking of Ministers, separating the Public Prosecution from ROP, giving the Shura Council more legislative powers and controls, and changing wilayets into regional governorates that will have elected Municipal Councils tasked with providing services at a local level.

The government also provided new jobs in the public sector and unemployment benefits. The Sultanate is a peaceful place and the protests and demonstrations are unique and quite different when compared to other nations with violent uprisings such as Yemen and Bahrain, and, in my opinion, not in the same category. However, the representation is sometimes muddled in the media abroad. 

Some recent news articles:

Rights activists held over oil field strike in Oman

Former Omani volleyball player Habiba Al Hinai and two others detained by security forces
  • Staff Report
  • Published: 13:08 June 1, 2012
  • Gulf News
Dubai Three activists were detained from Fahoud oil fields on Thursday for visiting the site to show solidarity with the striking workers from contracting companies, working for two oil companies in the country.
Former Oman volleyball player Habiba Al Hinai, Sohar activist Esmail Al Muqbali and Yaqoub Al Kharusi were held by security forces, according to a rights group in Oman.
The three had gone to support the striking Omanis, who are working for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and Oxy Oman contractors.
The workers are on strike for more than a week demanding better wages, risk allowance and provision for pension.
The strike has been termed illegal and workers have been asked to report back by around nine contracting companies. The workers have been warned they could risk losing jobs if they continue the strike.
Some of the Shura members and prominent citizens have tried to intervene.
According to a Facebook post by an activist, the last contact with Esmail Al Muqbali was on Thursday morning.
Esmail Al Muqbali, Habiba Al Hinai and Yaqoub Al Kharusi are among some activists who formed an independent human rights body. Oman already has a Human Rights Commission.

Oman’s Shura Council to discuss labour unrest tomorrow

Striking oilfield workers agree to resume work with immediate effect, say council members
  • Staff Report
  • Published: 16:33 June 1, 2012
  • Gulf News

Muscat Representatives of Oman’s elected Shura Council have announced an end to the weeklong strike by Omani oilfield workers that had hobbled operations across much of the country’s oil belt.
Salim Bin Ali Al Ka’abi, Deputy Chairman of the Council, who led a mission to negotiate an end to one of the worst labour crises to hit the Sultanate’s critical oil industry, said on Thursday the striking workers had agreed to resume work with immediate effect.
In a statement to the official Oman News Agency (ONA), Al Ka’abi said many of the protesting workers — primarily unskilled Omani employees of private contractors providing oilfield services to a number of oil companies — had returned to their respective workplaces on Wednesday while others would return tomorrow after the weekend break.
Emergency session
Al Ka’abi also said the Shura Council would convene in emergency session tomorrow to discuss the crisis as well as the workers’ demands. The Minister of Oil and Gas and his colleagues, as well as the head of the country’s largest oil producer, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), and other major oilfield companies and contractors will attend.
The protesters, numbering several hundred Omanis working primarily as bus drivers and helpers, were demanding pay increases, medical insurance, a hike in their social insurance, and a special ‘risk’ allowance to compensate for alleged ‘hazardous workplace exposure’.
No centralised leadership
It was not clear if the pledge to end the protest covered all of the striking workers who hailed from different contractors and subcontractors and lacked a centralised protest leadership. This disparate nature of the protest had forced negotiators to travel from one oilfield location to the next to confer with different groups of striking workers.
Oil output had fallen marginally during the weeklong crisis, PDO’s managing director Raoul Restucci revealed late last week.
Muscat Daily


Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) is striving to bring the industrial dispute with its contracting staff, which began last Thursday, to a speedy resolution by working closely with the government, Majlis A'Shura, Royal Oman Police, contractors, and other authorities.

A release stated that operations at Qarn Alam have resumed and further talks are taking place at Fahud.

Raoul Restucci, managing director, PDO, said, “We are striving to  resolve this dispute legally and fairly as soon as possible.”

The company, however, refutes the allegations that it has been trying to end this matter by denying vital supplies to the facilities affected.

PDO said it was doing its utmost to protect the welfare and safety of its staff and contracting personnel. Restucci added, “The unfortunate fact of the matter is that those who have mounted this illegal strike have been blocking the delivery of water, diesel and preventing others from going about their daily business.”

PDO stated the disruption has reduced oil production, but, “thanks to the non-striking contractors staff, the volume lost so far has been small,” Restucci said. He further thanked Majlis A'Shura for the exhaustive efforts they have made to conclude this matter.”

Three human rights activists ‘detained’
Cairo, Egypt - Cairo based Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has issued a press release calling for the release of what it claimed were three human rights activists, Habiba al Hinai, Ismail Muqbali and Yacoub Kharousi. ANHRI said in a release that the trio were detained on May 31 while on their way to Fahud to meet workers who were on strike.
Times of Oman

Protestors demand release of activists in Oman

June 02, 2012

Muscat: Members of 'Humanitarian Initiative for Human Rights in Oman', a newly-formed community body working on human rights issues in Oman, organised a sit-in opposite the Ministries District in Al Khuwair, yesterday.

They were protesting against alleged human rights violations and were demanding the "release- of former Oman volleyball player Habiba Al Hinai, Sohar activist Esmail Al Muqbali, and Yaqoub Al Kharusi, who are all allegedly "missing- since Thursday.

According to the activists, Habiba, Esmail and Yaqoub were "detained- from near the Fahoud oilfields on Thursday. They had visited the oilfields to show solidarity with the striking workers.

"On Thursday, we were aware that all the three had gone to the Fahoud oilfields to express their solidarity with the striking workers,- Khalfan, a member of Humanitarian Initiative for Human Rights in Oman, told Times of Oman.

"But after they made their visit, we heard they were summoned by the police. Their cellphones were switched off after 12pm and we lost contact with them. Till now we don't know where they are. Some say they are being brought to the police station in Qurum. But even though we went there with the lawyer, we were not allowed to meet them. So we decided to go for public protest against this 'unlawful arrest',- Khalfan added.

'No news'
The national oilfield workers were on strike for more than a week demanding better wages, health insurance coverage, risk allowance and a provision for pension.

"The three activists went to the oilfields after hearing that some of the facilities allowed for the workers were withdrawn. There were reports of power cuts in the camps as the workers were continuing their strike. They only went to check whether it was true or not. But there is no news after they left the camp,- Khalfan pointed out.

However, Attorney General Hassan Al Hilal said in a statement that officials from the Public Prosecution had met the activists who had gathered in Al Khuwair.

"Officials have heard the protesters' demands and have assured to provide a lawyer for them,- Hilal added.

Meanwhile, the strikes at the oilfields were called off on Thursday evening and the workers have returned to work. On Thursday, representatives of the Shura Council had announced an end to the week-long strike by Omani oilfield workers.

Salim bin Ali Al Ka'abi, Deputy Chairman of the Council, who led a mission to negotiate an end to the crisis, said on Thursday that the striking workers had agreed to resume work with immediate effect.

The Shura team that went to resolve the strike said they had no pressure in tackling the issue.
"We stood for the workers' rights,- they said.

There were also reports that a special Shura team had held talks with the officials of the Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Oil and Gas, Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) and the sub-contracting companies to discuss the issues related to the oilfield workers' strike.

According to the human rights activists, a similar strike was held in front of the Majlis Al Shura building yesterday to protest against the alleged "removal- of some of the oilfield workers who went on strike.

"More than two dozen activists held a sit-in in front of the Shura building to protest against the alleged 'removal' of the workers,- Khalfan said, while adding that they would continue their fight against human rights violations in the Sultanate.

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