Continuing with the second part of our Unions series, this bulletin takes a look at the requirements imposed on employers to provide unions with access to facilities and information.
Access to facilities
Ministerial Decision 570/2012 introduced a number of union rights, ranging from unions being empowered to represent their members in employment issues to ensuring implementation of collective work agreements.
A significant right which has a direct cost and practical implication on employers is that entitling unions to obtain certain facilities from employees to enable unions to perform their duties, to be provided with a suitable place for holding meetings and storage of documents, and to facilitate the election of a union's administrative body.
Unfortunately, the law does not go further in providing any guidance on what "facilities" must comprise of and this point has yet to be addressed by the Oman courts. It is therefore open to agreement between the employer and union as to what facilities will be provided to enable the union to perform their duties efficiently, including effective communication with their members.
Depending on the size of the employer's business and resources, facilities that employers may be required to provide and therefore should consider offering (subject to available resources) may include:
- accommodation for meetings; this can take the form of a dedicated office for the sole use of the union or access to general meeting rooms via a booking system
- storage facilities; this can be part of a dedicated union office or secure storage cabinets. It could potentially include electronic storage through the provision of a computer or even cloud storage
- access to a computer, printer and photocopier
- access to a telephone, and other communication media, such as separate email accounts or a dedicated secure intranet page
- use of notice boards
- access to members who work at different locations
- work area or meeting room for votes to be cast during elections
Access to information and data
A union's right to information and data from the employer is provided by Article 112 of the Labour Law following an amendment introduced by Royal Decree 74/2006. Ministerial Decision 294/2006 (as amended) governing collective bargaining obliges employers and union representatives to provide necessary data and information to each other to conduct negotiations during a collective bargaining process.
There is no guidance provided by the law on the nature of the information or data which employers must provide to unions and in practice, information requests will need to be considered on a case by case basis.
Information requests where it would be reasonable to expect employers to provide information are likely to include:
- HR and HSE policies and procedures
- HSE safety records
- organograms, manpower and Omanisation plans
- salary bands according to job groupings
- grievance and disciplinary documents (however, this should be limited only to documents which would ordinarily be disclosed to the employee and personal information redacted to preserve confidentiality)
Employers should be wary of union requests for general information, known as "fishing," and should seek clarification (if this is not obvious) as to the purpose of the information request before disclosure. Where appropriate, any information which is to be handed over to a union should have personal and sensitive information redacted.
In cases of information disclosure, whether during a collective bargaining process or other situation, rules concerning confidentiality of information should be agreed with the union, and ideally through a written confidentiality agreement.