Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1874
Title: UNION-RELATED STRIKE SHUTS SALALAH PORT

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT18742005-12-17 03:34:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 001874 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
USDOL FOR ILAB 
STATE PASS USTR (J. BUNTIN, A. ROSENBERG) 
STATE FOR DRL, NEA/PI, AND NEA/ARPI 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ELAB EWWT PGOV ETRD ECON PREL MU
SUBJECT: UNION-RELATED STRIKE SHUTS SALALAH PORT 
 
 
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Summary 
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¶1. (SBU) Port Salalah, Oman's leading container transshipment 
facility, was shut down December 11-12 following an impromptu 
employees walk-out spurred, apparently, by management's 
decision to fire the popular head of the workers' committee. 
Though strikes are not unprecedented in Oman, this walk-out 
stands out for having paralyzed one of the nation's major 
international transportation hubs, completely without 
warning.  Government officials moved quickly to broker a 
compromise with the port management firm that brought workers 
back to their jobs by the night of December 12.  The labor 
movement was further bolstered by the government's firm 
resolve to prevent management retribution against union 
leaders. End summary. 
 
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Impromptu Strike 
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¶2. (U) Workers at Salalah Port walked off the job on December 
11, bringing Oman's largest container transshipment facility 
to a screeching halt for two days.  The sudden action was 
reportedly prompted by port management's decision not to 
renew the employment contract of Salim al-Ma'ashani, a 
purchasing manager and elected head of the facility's workers 
committee (as Omani unions are called).  (Note: Salalah Port 
Services Company (SPS), which is a joint venture primarily 
involving Danish shipping giant AP Moeller-Maersk and the 
Omani government, operates the government-owned port on a 
long-term contract.  End note.)  Al-Ma'ashani had reportedly 
been insisting that port workers be paid for uncompensated 
overtime when management moved to fire him.  With numerous 
other frustrations apparently having built up, the employees 
at the port's container berths (the core aspect of the port's 
overall operations) staged a walk-out in solidarity with 
al-Ma'ashani.  By the morning of December 12, Embassy 
contacts reported a heavy police cordon around the port 
facility. 
 
¶3. (SBU) Oman's Minister of Manpower, Juma al-Juma'a, 
informed the Ambassador of the strike on December 11, on the 
eve of his Ministry's participation in a USG-funded Regional 
Labor Dialogue.  The Minister said the government would 
intervene to calm the situation, and expected operations to 
resume at some level by December 12.  Over the next 48 hours, 
officials from the Ministries of Manpower and Transportation, 
representatives from the national-level Workers Main 
Committee, plus local dignitaries and security officials, 
hammered out a compromise between management and labor.  The 
Ministry of Manpower's Director of Labor Welfare told Emboffs 
on December 13 that the settlement was in the workers' favor 
(he did not elaborate), noting that he had earlier that day 
submitted the official report on the resolution to the 
Minister of Manpower.  SPS Senior Manager Chris Holt 
(protect) confirmed to P/E Chief on December 13 that port 
operations resumed as of the 2100 shift change on the evening 
of the 12th, and that the port was operating at full capacity 
once again. 
 
¶4. (SBU) While details on the workers' demands and ultimate 
resolution have not been officially revealed, the complaints 
apparently revolved around the behavior of certain senior 
managers (primarily expatriates) of SPS, calls to amend 
overtime and allowances policies (particularly regarding 
danger and noise concerns), and bringing basic wages more on 
par with other major international ports.  Another demand was 
that al-Ma'ashani be rehired; by all accounts, he was. 
(Note: Al-Ma'ashani also happens to belong to the same 
powerful Dhofari tribe as Sultan Qaboos' mother.  End note.) 
 
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Open Yet Shut 
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¶5. (SBU) Despite the history-making nature of this first 
strike involving one of Oman's new labor unions, the Omani 
press remained absolutely mute.  Events unfolded, however, 
simultaneously with a USG-funded Regional Labor Dialogue that 
had drawn together top labor officials and union 
representatives from the U.S., Oman, and other Arab states. 
Omani workers' committee members from the national and 
enterprise-level discussed the strike with animation during 
the Labor Dialogue.  Two national committee members confided 
to Emboffs that the negotiations had been tough and that they 
were relieved the episode was over.  Tellingly, during a 
panel discussion at the Dialogue, the Director General of 
Manpower declared in the presence of the Ministry Under 
Secretary that the Port Salalah strike was both "legitimate 
 
SIPDIS 
and successful."  Notwithstanding the press silence, popular 
Omani Internet message board "Al-Sablah" was in frenzy about 
the strike, as its discussion generated over 12,000 hits in 
just three days.  The overwhelming online sentiment supported 
the workers. 
 
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Impact 
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¶6. (SBU) Formal unions (which are based on enterprises rather 
than trades) are still new to Oman, and this is the first 
major instance where confrontation between a workers 
committee and management led to a shut-down strike.  The 
tremendous economic importance of Salalah as Oman's largest 
port makes this strike the most significant in recent memory. 
 It is perhaps an optimistic sign that the dispute was 
resolved both quickly and peacefully, and that the government 
has moved to protect a union leader from possible retribution 
by his employer. 
BALTIMORE