OUTLOOK — By Mohammed Al Rahbi — The issue of absconding labour is a very common and ongoing problem that occurs every day in our society. It has became the street talk. The daily publication of small pictures of absconding labour in our newspapers is not the solution for this problem. I watched a TV programme, Namaal, (Working) broadcast on Oman TV in co-operation with Ministry of Manpower, where several letters were read. The first letter criticised Oman TV for not taking into consideration discussions on important social issues in their broadcasted programmes. These kinds of false claims, have been going on since a long time, accusing the Oman TV of broadcasting only stereotype programmes, thus denying the efforts made by the people working in Oman TV. I believe the issues discussed currently on TV were very frank and taken from real life as well as broadcast with transparency.
The second message is that the Manpower Ministry is concerned about the programme, Namaal, and that the ministry is concerned about the laws of labour; however, that didn’t stop it from carrying on this programme which might have caused problems to the ministry. People may think that though the ministry is broadcasting this programme it is doing nothing regarding the absconding labour!
In fact, there needs to be more rules and regulations enacted to safeguard the rights of citizens. The Manpower Ministry is confused between the absconding labour who are forced by their sponsors to escape for one reason or another and others like housemaids who create problems for the sponsoring families when they run away. All this leads to psychological and financial burdens on the sponsors.
The good point here is that of the publication of the name of sponsor’s office that recruited the worker in the newspaper advertisement for absconding labour. This would force the offices concerned to carefully select the type of expatriate labour that they plan to bring to the Sultanate. It also shows well-prepared statistics about the particular offices whose labour escape more than other offices. Thus, the people would know whom they have to avoid while recruiting workers.
We can assume that there was a previous deal between the offices and the housemaids because they provide them with phone numbers in order to arrange for absconding after the warrantee period is over in a few months time. What is really confusing is that there are hundreds of thousands of passports with the maids’ sponsors which they believe they could be an assurance for them to get back the maids they have recruited. However, all those passports are nothing but useless small notebooks and the maids’ pictures are just a souvenir for them to remember her while she gets another secret shelter where she can work.
Another point that was highlighted in the TV programme was the currently increasing number of Ethiopian housemaids. There will be thousands of these maids in the country while there is no Ethiopian Embassy which can serve them. Their sponsors are dealing with some representatives who play the role of the embassy.
This is an incident that happened to one of my friends with regard to his housemaid; he discovered that his maid had more than one mobile phone. He didn’t do anything about it. He listened to his wife’s advice to not to interfere in the maids personal affairs as they were afraid that she might escape and leave them in the lurch. The maid knew that this family needs her to take care of their little girl child more than she needs to work for them.
However, she left them and they started the procedure of looking for another housemaid after paying RO 1000. They also had to go through a long process with many complicated procedures at the Health Ministry, Manpower Ministry and ROP. All these procedures required queuing for hours in very long lines.