Muscat: Trade unions in Oman’s oil and gas sector are threatening to go on strike to protest mass layoffs in the sector amid the slump in oil prices, defying laws that prohibit strikes.

The strike will begin on November 18, Oman’s National Day, and go on indefinitely until the authorities meet demands of the Omani workers to put a end to the layoffs, Saud Al Salmi, the chairman of the oil and gas trade unions, told Gulf News.

“We aim to go on strike to [persuade] the Omani authorities to find solution for such frightening layoffs of more than 1,300 Omani nationals working in the oil and gas sector,” said Al Salmi.

Al Salmi pointed out that the numbers of those who will go on strike is not yet known and it depends on the workers themselves to go on strike.

Al Salmi affirmed that the trade union is not working against the government but stressed that the authorities must find very urgent solutions.

There are more than 20,000 Omanis working in the oil and gas sector in the country, according to Al Salmi, and there are 25 trade unions in the oil and gas sector.

More than 2,000 families have been affected following the dismissal of their sole breadwinners, which is very tragic and worrying, said Al Salmi.

The statement issued on Tuesday by the union said that the trade unions will defy of the Ministerial Decree No. 575/2013, which stipulates the prohibition of strikes in oil and gas sector.

The union demanded the Omani authorities step in to stop the growing number of layoffs of Omani workers in the oil and gas sectors amid an oil slump that has had a ominous effect on the economy. Cheap oil has slashed the government’s revenues, pushing it deep into the red; Oman posted a budget deficit of 2.68 billion riyals (Dh25.56 billion) in the first eight months of this year, swinging from a 205.7 million riyal surplus a year earlier.

The union also called for the abolition of the ministerial decree that prohibits strikes in the sector.

The trade unions also demanded of the issuance of the new labour law as well as establishment of labour courts to protect workers from the what they say are greedy, low paying employers.

Al Salmi said that the relevant committee that is presided by both the undersecretaries of Oil and Gas Ministry and Manpower Ministry failed to solve the recent cases of those laid off workers.

The committee was formed to solve the labour issues and disputes in 2013, when the ministerial decision issued to ban strike in the oil and gas sector.

Those Omanis who were laid off by those companies are suffering as they have loans to pay, families to feed and houses to build, he said.

“Some of those workers are having difficulty paying their house rent because simply they don’t have any income”.

Al Salmi cited the case of an old man in his sixties who was laid off recently just one year ahead of going into retirement.

The number of Omani workers who have been laid off by contracting companies has gone up to more than 1,300 so far, according to the General Federation of Oman Trade Union.

Officials of contracting companies justified the move saying that oil companies had cancelled contracts and this had forced the company to cut jobs.

An urgent meeting of all trade union groups operating in the oil and gas sector to consider possible courses of action and preemptive measures amid the growing threat to jobs of nationals was held last Tuesday.

Trade unions and strikes were legalised in Oman in 2006, fulfilling a requirement of the Oman-US free trade agreement. Oman is the only Gulf state besides Bahrain to have a general federation of trade unions.