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Pay raise ends walkout by workers at 300 firms in industrial park in Oman

Lowest-paid workers given 10% rise and two-day weekend after strike in compound where 6,000 are employed.

MUSCAT// Oman's biggest manufacturing companies have agreed to workers' demands by increasing their pay and benefits, an official of the Rusayl Industrial Area said yesterday.

About 300 workers demonstrated at the square in the industrial area yesterday morning, demanding answers to their requests, made in a demonstration last week, for pay rises and expanded benefits.

Workers who earn less than 500 rials (Dh4,950) a month will get a salary increase of 50 rials (Dh495), while those paid more than 500 rials will get a 30-rial rise, Mohsin Zahran Al Hinai, the director general of the Rusayl Industrial Estate, said in an interview.

The employers also agreed to provide medical insurance to all employees and to allow a two-day weekend, Mr Al Hinai said.

Last Thursday, workers on the industrial estate, about 60 kilometres from Muscat, held a strike, stopping production at more than 300 manufacturing units.

Hamood Ruzaiqi, one of the workers at the industrial area, said: "We are happy now, though other demands, like the reduction of expatriate workers in the industrial area, have not been agreed by our bosses. But the manpower ministry officials promised they would seriously look into it and come back later for more talks."

About 6,000 workers are employed in the sprawling compound of small to medium-sized manufacturing plants, according to one of the protesters.

Ali al Noobi, a protester, said about 60 per cent of the workers are expatriates, most of them from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

"They can create many jobs for nationals if the number of expatriates workers come down", he said.

Also yesterday, protesters set up a tent camp at a government complex in Muscat, saying they will not leave until several ministers they accuse of corruption leave. Hundreds of demonstrators demanded the ouster of the justice, housing and labour ministers and the attorney general.

Protests began in Oman late last month, with people demonstrating for political reforms, freedom of speech, jobs and pay increases. One person was killed in clashes.

Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, has since made major cabinet changes and promised thousands of new civil service jobs, as well as granting lawmaking powers to officials outside the royal family.


* With additional reporting from Associated Press

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