Attorney-at-law Sanjeev Datadin is preparing to file actions in the courts to level the playing field when it comes to what locals are being paid in the oil and gas sector.
The lawyer confirmed yesterday that he decided to take action after an employee working offshore on a vessel complained of being paid a mere $72,000 monthly under terrible conditions.
He is being forced to stay for an entire month on board.
According to Datadin, from perusal of the contract that the employee signed, it was clear that the employees was working 24 hours which by law would signal that the minimum wage level is not even being met.
The case is threatening to raise the debate and draw comparisons about the pay of locals versus foreign workers.
The minimum wage in Guyana is a little more $60,000 monthly.
The employee signed a contract that he will work 12 hours daily for 28 days. He is then allowed 28 days off, before returning to duty.
According to the lawyer, from the contracts he has seen, there are clear violations of how many consecutive hours one can work. There are also violations of the rules of days off and the minimum hourly rate.
“It is clear that advantage is being taken and that there is discrimination happening. We are moving to have a ruling that will stop it.”
The debate has been centering on the benefits of the oil industry for locals.
In Trinidad for example, workers whose duties include being offshore are granted allowances, including Cost of Living Allowance (COLA).
It is not clear whether the same standards held in Trinidad by the companies that operate there are being practiced in Guyana.
“The contract violates the rules of days off. It violates the rules of the minimum hourly rate. Guyanese are being taken advantage of,” the attorney said
According to Datadin, his research indicates that under the Production Sharing Agreements with the oil company, the company has to pay for the training of staffers.
“…and they deduct it out of capital costs so they don’t care what they pay for training.”
It was explained that the workers are not hired by Exxon or the other operators, but by other companies, many of whom operate like recruitment agencies.
“What they are doing…they are billing Exxon more than they are paying the employees, and they are paying the employees who are continuously on a ship a fraction. What they are doing is creaming off the top and paying people ridiculous wages…paying you $72,000 per month, for working on a rig for 24 hours a day. In reality, you are on the job 24 hours a day because you can’t come off the rig.”
According to the lawyer, it is becoming clear that there is great disparity in the earnings of Guyanese versus overseas workers with similar training.
“But that is by design. My litigation is intending to say is, that they are taking advantage of local employees by offering them less wages that offering to foreigners.
“I want to file one case to solve all the cases.”
Datadin said that workers are given different titles but performing the same jobs.
“The law is not what your title is…the law is what your job is…so people doing the same job as you can’t be paid more than you. That is discrimination.”
Explaining his strategy, the lawyer said that he will be filing a discrimination suit on nationality; breach of the employment rules and on the criminal almost minimum wage being offered.
The company and even ExxonMobil will be named in the suit, Datadin said.
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