The Lulu strike

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?!

More soon.

le fin.

The Lulu strike The Lulu strike Reviewed by Sythe on Monday, June 30, 2014 Rating: 5


  1. These people should come to terms with the fact that not everyone can drive a brand new Lexus and have the latest phone.

    Like you said, their take home salary and benefits are way above what people in Europe /US would get for a similar job.

  2. They had other demands than just salary increase.

    Did you read it on my blog?

    As for justifying thier demands, who are we to judge and compare.

    What you might get in the US also include medical benefits and other small perks which the average staff at Lulu doesnt get regardless of the free health care services in the country.

    Are you back in town?

  3. Dalz R - nobody reads your blog. Get over yourself, there are better sources of information than your copy-and-paste attempts at blogging.

  4. More to the point potential employers will look at this and think "Omani employees - more trouble than they are worth"- yet again. Lulu were actually employing a lot of low-skilled Omanis - good for them - but I bet the next time they come to hire they will have different thoughts. They are pricing themselves out of a job and a future: read between the lines of what the Central Bank said yesterday about current spending. The MOM aren't doing the country any favours either by encouraging this.

  5. Re: Anon --> 'Lulu were actually employing a lot of low-skilled Omanis - good for them' - <---As part of Omanization and quota requirements, they must employ them.

    Re: Dalz -->' What you get in the US also include medical benefits and other small perks'

    <---Get real! The medical insurance includes very high out of pocket deductibles, the cost of living is much higher and there is no job protection..It's employment 'at will' ..-staff would be fired for using their mobiles while checking people out or being rude to customers which LuLu's staff is notorious for.

    However, there is potential to 'move up' in the USA which doesn't seem the case at LuLu's. I have never seen an Omani manager at LuLu's as it is not an Omani company.

    The thing I find offensive about your blog Dalz is that it seems originally set up only for the purpose of advertising and making money for you. And, copy/paste makes that more offensive...why don't you talk about your experiences and life as an Omani..

  6. 400 OR is probably a little less than some would earn in the US. I'm guessing a similar job in the US would pay between $7.50-$9.00 depending on the state which is about OR 460 to OR 554 a month for a full time 40hrs week job in a grocery store. However most of the jobs would be part time and have minimal benefits. I wouldn't be surprised if once you adjust for the fact that the work week has fewer hrs in Oman, more vacation, and reduced working hours for month a year for Ramadan, and no taxes it's probably better salary in Oman.

    3% annual wage increase is very generous and probably unsustainable in the long term.

    They might have some legitimate complaints but wages and bonuses seem very fair.

  7. $7.50-$9.00 an hour

  8. I would support them if they wanted, like, a system for promotion based on performance, which means training for OMani managers, store organizers/designers (I trained for this when I worked for a big company in Canada) ect... based on a minimum of time plus performance, i.e no cell phones at work, happy customers, shows intitiative, works their full hours ect...

    But pay for the ska eof pay... they already make enough for a low skills job and that's just a fact. As for medical benefits????? If Omani, you already GET free healthcare. And the healthcare, while slow and occasionally inept, is better even than in Canada, for example, because in canada your doctors and surgeries might be free, but your medications aren't 100% free.

    People don't know. Oman is pretty awesome for OManis in terms of free healthcare. And I work in the healthcare sector here currently. The health sector has its faults, but it isn't in basic free access to care, it is in operations and efficiency and organization.

    I found the strike totally bizarre and weird... and I support OManization and the right to strike. This type of strike just makes people (expats) think Omanis are stupid.

  9. You are making the mistake of comparing conditions in Oman with those in Western countries. It is not their fault that their country doesn't charge taxes, in fact I am sure you probably benefit more from this than they. As much as I know you have lived in this country for a long time. So you are well aware of how rents as well as food prices have at least tripled in the last 5 years. Could YOU live of 400 Rial a month in the capital? Pay rent and foodd??? Living is expensive in Oman and especially Omanis should be able to live effortlessly in this country! Just because it is not a highly demanding job, we still need them and they need to be respected for what they do, and I totally support them. As much as I like your blog, I find this post highly arrogant, ignorant and elitarian. Shame on you!

  10. Come on Anonymous 1 July!

    Oman is a cheap place to live - Muscat is the lowest in the Economist city cost of living ratings plus Omanis get free health care which expats can't access - the private health care here is not great; I can assure you if I get anything serious I am on the first plane out of here. I am afraid you attitude is exactly the problem here - Omanis don't deserve to live effortlessly here - no one does, anywhere. And they certainly dont need the latest mobile phone or a Lexus. This sense of entitlement is new - the older generation did not have it. You are not Qatar or the UAE, Oman is not rich - it's budget is just about ballanced and it spends about 6% of its entire GDP on subsidising energy prices alone.

    The measures they put in place after the Arab Spring placed huge strains on the economy and are unsustainable in the medium term - look at the recent report by the Central Bank and the S&P credit report out today. If oil prices fall below $100 the troubles really start to bite - you simply can't afford to live like this continuing to pile costs on a state sector that faces long term decline.

    Striking to win private health care for checkout girls in a country with a free universal health service - what the hell????

    Who do you think is going to pay for all this????

  11. I had to laugh at the 'Omanis should be able to live effortlessly in this country'.

    Why? Who says so? Why are you entitled to ANYTHING without having to work hard for it?

    Europeans have work ethic, that the average Omani would be scared to death of. I'm afraid your average Omani would not know hard work if it bit him and THAT will be downfall of this Country.

    Too many Omanis thinking they are too good to work and feeling that they deserve everything to be given to them without having to put any effort in. Life does not work like that. If you want more money, then you EARN it, you do not hold up stupid placards and demand your 'basic rights', whilst exploiting the basic rights of expats from India and the Philippines! You're no better than them and in many ways, you're worse as you are extremely lazy and feel you are owed something.

    Get this - you are owed nothing! Now get off your backsides and work for a living!

    You speak of your basic rights, but by the ams token, the employer should expect to be able to have his employee turn up for work on time, not take days off sick when he feels like it, not leave early, not spend half of his time at work texting on his mobile phone and the other half looking vacantly around him.

    These protests make me sickle! Because they suffice only to prove what all the European expats already know. That when the oil runs out and all the expats leave, Omanis actually have to work for a change and the Country will go down the pan within a week!

  12. The real problem with this entitlement culture is that these lazy individuals realise that they have the government by the balls. It is little wonder that the last resort of employers' is hiring Omanis.

  13. Anon on 30th June

    Dont see what my blog has anything to do with this topic.

    Yet thanks for the free advertising

    Wake up sunshine lol

  14. Errr, you brought up your blog in the second post to try and highlight some of the other whiney demands they had.

  15. I agree with your view completely. However, you missed out to mention two important things in your article. (I don`t know if you are aware of these...)

    Firstly, it seems that the Omani employees at Lulu Wadi Kabir did more than striking. If rumors are true, some violence did take place.

    Secondly, Lulu agreed NOT to deduct 3 days salary of all striking employee. And I read somewhere that a total of 1100 Omanis were on strike. So if my math is correct, then Lulu paid 1100 striking Omanis their salary for 3 days for no work done. hmmmm.. so if their total pay is Omr 365 per month, the its 365 / 20days x 3 days = 54.750 per Omani

    Now thats 1100 x 54.750 = Omr 60,225

    I aint too sue about this, but even half of that is a whole lot of $$$ to be paid out by the employer's pocket.

    Unfortunately for Lulu, they have always been at the receiving end of such activities. Flash back to 2011, Lulu Sohar no longer stands.

    Tick Tick Tick... no one knows what can happen in the future if such things continue....

    ps. sorry for the bad grammar....

  16. You know what? The customers who shop there will bear the brunt and pay higher prices for strikes like this.

    It's sad. It's pathetic.

  17. @oil dollar

    No price increase!! PACP to the rescue. Oman controls prices of ALL commodities. Haven't you noticed the lack of powdered milk on the shelves. Major brands like Nido, Rainbow and Coast aren't importing cause PACP isn't allowing prices increase. And the suppliers of these brands are not willing to do business at a loss.

  18. Dunk my donut

    Do you even understand the relationship we have as bloggers?

    MM- knows for a fact that most of my followers come from him

    We do communicate on a social level.


  19. Dear Anonymous July 1, 2014 at 10:09 AM:

    Whether or not the cost of living has risen, comparatively, Muscat is cheap to live in. Yes, yes it is. I live for 550 OMR, paid for daycare, housemaid, rent, food, clothes and phone + transportation for that. Most Omanis DO not live laone, especially check out girls or the fruit weighing guys. So they don't need to spend all of their salary FOR LIVING. Their family SHARES the cost.

    I love Oman, have lived here a long while now, and my family are all Omanis. But I lived in Canada. The average check-out girl or Lulu girl (let's say Wal-Mart girl because we have no LUlu there) cannot afford rent unless she shares with a husband or boyfriend or roomates. She does not live effortlessly. Her job is minimum wage. It is a low skill job. She has to work three jobs like this if she wants to have her own house and eat food and have water and electricity. She probably does not drive because she can't afford to.

    Living effortlessly is not a right. It is something you work for. Something you build into your economy. Something being OMani does not entitle one too alone. Qaboos has said as much. If people would listen.

  20. re: Dalz

    'Do you even understand the relationship we have as bloggers?'

    -->...and the point is....?

    'We do communicate on a social level. Taa'

    -->...this sounds really 'high schoolish'

    I'm not Dunk my Donut just an observer. I looked at your blog today. It has a nice design, but your post today does seem like a copy-and-paste right out of Times of Oman.

    Also, you did comment,'did you read it on my blog?' which 'opened the door' to your blog for comments. I found your comment 'Wake up sunshine lol' to be a somewhat immature come back to Dunk my donut and really not necessary.

    I mean, (you) as an Omani blogger, what do you really want to say about the LuLu strike, were you for it or against it? Why don't you give us some insights?

  21. Oil revenues are down more than 10% - just the time to campaign for more government spending!

  22. Dalz- I'm not sure what your point is? Please lighten us about your relationship as a blogger.

    What does MM knowing that your blog leeches off his have to do with anything? All it shows is that you are inconsequential in the big scheme of things- a remora on the shark as it were.

    Do you have an opinion as opposed to blindly following the Omani line? Are you reading any of the comments or just looking for comments about your blog?

    You talk about social change in your latest post but you yourself are making no social change by simply giving us Cliff-notes of someone else's opinions. And let's not go into details of some of Saleh's past opinion pieces!!

  23. As someone who works between an UAE based retail firm and Oman, i don't think anybody has a clue how the Lulu strike is viewed in the eyes of foreign investors, this is really a detternt to future investors wherein locally employment is enforced rather than a choice, quality of staffing due to this is absolutely low (due to protectionism), Highest wage for mid level staffing in the region while prices are sealed (this in essence means that the operator has to cut on margins to afford to pay higher salary without the ability to increase retail price), add to that the employees took the unique decision to disrupt their employers business to prove their point, guys get real - you are killing future employment opportunities for the thousands of local talents who would be in the market looking for jobs by killing investment opportunities - the staff who resorted to strike are selfish and thinking for themselves obviously - Bravo !!!!

  24. The real issue is the status quo is not sustainable. Population is increasing and the supply of Oil is decreasing. Oil output/revenue is eventually going to decrease. In 10-15 years there will be lots of problems. Simply raising Omani salaries without increasing their productivity will lead to high inflation and demands for more raises. Neighboring countries have more and cheaper (easier to extract) oil. Improving education and work ethic is they only way for Omanis to have a chance of having a decent future. There is no sense of urgency when dealing with these problems.

  25. In addition to all the points made, i would like to point out that the topic of freedom of assembly is still being brought up at the United Nations and they show significant weaknesses and contradictions within the Omani system. What? you thought i was only talking about Omani people? I'm not that self centered. Not only them but also the expats in Oman. Those who really know have little to no trust now. Keep brushing the dust under the rug and see how clean and livable the house will be.

  26. As a matter of interest, what is the average salary for the non-Omanis in Lulu? I have little time for strikes and protests when they are only for a select group.

  27. So only Omanis have somewhat of a right to assembly? What about expats?


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