|Image grabbed from this website|
As you all know by now, there was another strike at Lulu's at the end of last week and over the weekend by the Omani staff that work there. From what I understand, this was the second strike in as many months. The staff were striking because they wanted their "basic rights".
From this article from Muscat Daily, and also this one, it appears that the staff decided to go on strike because the staff wanted pay rises, annual bonuses and promotions. "Faisal" as quoted in the above linked article is recorded as saying, “We need a pay hike as most of us earn an average of RO400. Salaries of those working for the past ten years are still the same. We have been asking for our basic rights for the last few months but our demands have always been turned down. Hence we resorted to the sit-in protest and have pledged not to go back to work unless our demands are met”.
The vast majority of the striking workers were check-out staff. It's not a hard job, it requires no special training and really just requires the employee to be able to scan items into their tills and then collect payment as indicated on their screens. It's not rocket science. If they don't like it, or want more money in their chosen professional field of check-out clerk, they could test the market and move to another grocery company and see if they get paid more there. Salaries for long term employees are probably largely static because the job itself is menial and essentially skill-less, meaning anyone could do it. The real question to be asked is why are people still working as a check-out operator after 10 years? There's always exceptions to everything, and it could be that it is a mother who works part-time and the hours fit with her schedule and I'd totally understand why they'd continue to work the same job for 10 years. Some people might just be content being a check-out person and for some reason think that seniority in a position should equate to increased authority and compensation. For a private business to operate on anything other than a meritocracy for it's workforce, that would spell disaster.
As I said earlier, I think this was the second strike in recent months, and this one was more effective because there were many reports of the striking workers preventing customers from taking shopping trolleys, blocking check-out tills and generally hampering Lulu's ability to conduct it's business, which led to a number of the striking Omani staff to be required to report to various ROP stations across the country on Saturday. Let's call a spade a spade; the striking workers saw an opportunity to hold their employers over a barrel with the start of the busiest season of the year and prevented them from doing business efficiently. One may even go as far to say that this sort of behaviour is Haram, but I've no idea. I bet Carrefour made out like bandits!
Now, Faisal, quoted above, shares that the average salary for one of these check out jobs is RO 400, and the referenced article also states that some of these check out staff are earning up to RO 500 per month. Tax free. With their government providing them with free health care, subsidized utilities and fuel, along with a raft of subsidies for food and a number of other commodities. I think you may find that an Omani check-out employee makes more than one in the USA, who has to pay tax, and has no subsidies on their cost of living.
As for their "basic rights", lets have a look. The minimum salary in Oman is RO 225 + 100 in allowances, so RO 325 a month. Based on Faisal's information, everyone (Omani, that is) working at Lulu's as checkout staff get paid way over this. I have no idea if the staff are getting the required 3% annual increase, and if they were not then I guess this is what they were striking for. It is certainly not a basic right to demand a salary increase just because they want more money, or to demand a promotion (with associated salary increase) or to demand health insurance, and certainly not to demand an annual bonus.
The strike ended yesterday, with the workers getting health insurance and a review of their salaries. Am I missing something here? Private health insurance for check out staff, who already has free state health insurance? This just means that we're all going to have to pay more when grocery shopping. The silver lining maybe that Lulu's will be a market leader in terms of employment, and so perhaps the check-outs will be better staffed meaning a quicker trip to the shops for us all. I doubt it though.
The sad and inescapable truth of these sorts of negotiated agreements for Omani staff is that its ultimately bad for Oman in the long run. It's bad for Oman because as this nations economy is starting to heat up, and it seeks to attract foreign investment to stimulate growth, investors see these types of demands, and very importantly their apparent abetment by the Ministry of Manpower, which gives them cold feet about doing business in Oman. It's also bad as it will fuel inflation, and will compel other labour union's members to strike for more salary hikes as well, as it clearly works.
I wonder who's going to strike next?!