Sep 12, 2021 News
…reminds of legal protections for employees
Kaieteur News – The Oil and Gas branch of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) is reporting that during its most recent interactions with employees in the industry, it would have learnt that workers are being “told in no uncertain terms that they are not allowed to join unions.”
This, GAWU said, not only smacks of gross disrespect to the Guyanese working-class but that all workers of Guyana have an inalienable constitutional right to belong to trade unions.
This right, the union stressed, is strengthened by the Trade Union Recognition Act which says that employers who seek to dissuade or make employment conditional on workers joining a union shall be guilty of a crime.
Qualifying its position, the union related that workers of a few enterprises “have shared with us written memos and documents which tacitly inform workers that they should stay away from unions.”
According to GAWU, the action by the companies, to adopt any policy or measure that aims to prevent workers from becoming organised, “in our view is illegal and cannot be countenanced.”
As such, GAWU said it has since informed the Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton, “of this worrying development and have urged him and his Ministry to ensure that workers’ rights are upheld.”
According to GAWU in a public missive on Friday, it has since learnt, “that the Minister and Ministry has taken this matter seriously and will soon engage errant firms. We welcome this intervention as the GAWU considers the practices by firms in the sector as a means to divide the workforce.”
According to GAWU, such measures will allow the perpetuation of exploitative practices and diminution of workers’ rights and conditions-of-work.
The union body has since taken to urging workers not to be lulled and have their “bosses” trample on their rights since, “an organised workforce is a strong workforce and one where rights are respected and where workers are treated with dignity.”
According to GAWU, “at this time, when the sector is generating tens of billions of dollars, to treat those who generate the wealth in a disdainful and disrespectful manner is simply abhorrent.”
Only recently, the union had cause to lament the working conditions being experienced by some Guyanese employed in the industry and it was highlighted that in some cases employees who are highly skilled and recipients of specialised training are paid at the national minimum wage of $255 per hour.
Contrastingly and “to illustrate the preposterousness, a school cleaner presently receives around $403 per hour,” the union highlighted.
To this end, the union body emphasised that while “a great deal of attention is paid to Guyanese participation in the sector, and the statistics may appear impressive on the surface, the reality is that oil sector workers are confronted by exploitative practices and, at times, demeaning relations.”
Clearly, the union said, “the situation is far from ideal and reminds us of what prevailed when the plantocracy ruled the sugar industry. Like then, the workers of the oil sector are seen as commodities while their owners extract profits and super-profits from their sweat.”
As such, GAWU went on to note that while the (local) workers’ labour is exploited, the owners are accumulating wealth which generations of their families may not be able to expend, while locals are underpaid and undervalued.
The union also alleges that, “the pay arrangement is apparently devised and is managed by a firm that has interests of a now-silent critic of the sector.”
As such, GAWU said that it stands ready and willing to work with the oil sector workers to speak on their behalf and to bring about a better day for workers.
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