– intends to visit offshore operations
Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton recently informed Kaieteur Radio that he has put oil companies ExxonMobil and Tullow Oil on notice, after receiving worrying reports of unequal pay between Guyanese workers and expatriates. He also noted his intention to very soon go on visits offshore, and to train labour officers, as well as occupational health and safety officers, to conduct requisite inspections.
The production sharing agreement signed between government and Exxon states that Guyana must give the company seven days notice before visiting its offshore operations
The Minister made an appearance on Kaieteur Radio’s Petroleum 101, where he discussed the rights of the workers in the context of the petroleum and mining sectors.
“Information has come to me, and has come to the party,” he stated, “even before we got into government about instances in the oil and gas industry where you have unequal payment for the same job.”
The Minister expressed bewilderment that a Guyanese baker, for instance, should be paid five or 10 times less than someone from Trinidad or elsewhere, when they use the same flour and water.
In his meetings with the oil companies, he was keen to note that the reports of unequal pay revolve around their sub-contractors and not these two companies themselves. In this regard, Hamilton noted that it was necessary to let these two companies know of his expectations, as it is in engagements with them that the sub-contractors are brought into the local sector.
“I have put that before Exxon,” the Minister explained, “and I said to them, ‘you have a responsibility to speak to your subcontractors and the people you contract to execute jobs in this space’ because from the Guyanese people’s standpoint, the only name that comes to their mind when we discuss oil and gas is Exxon.”
He said that the companies gave commitments that they would look into the issue.
On the other hand, the Ministry’s officers will have to be trained for the specificities of scrutinizing offshore operations, as they would have to determine the veracity of complaints made by employees, Hamilton told Kaieteur Radio.
In addition, Hamilton said that Guyanese should be given the first opportunity to be employed once they have the skills.
“I said to the oil and gas industry companies I have engaged that you have a responsibility to create all the necessary conditions to ensure Guyanese are equipped with the necessary skills to function effectively and efficiently in the oil and gas industry.”
From a business standpoint, he is of the view that it would be better for oil companies to have local workers, as it is more expensive to have expats who they would likely have to house.
Reports of unequal pay have plagued the industry for some time now.
An oil service company operating aboard the Liza Destiny Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel appeared to be using the job descriptions for some of its employees to pay foreign workers more than local workers for the same job, according to a report by Attorney-at-Law Sanjeev Datadin last year.
Appearing on Kaieteur Radio’s Guyana’s Oil & You in October, he had said that the company would label the local employee with a different job title as the foreign employee, but that the work is the same.
“In fact, it’s one person working one shift and the other person working the other shift,” he had said.
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