Sep 08, 2022 News
– as Ministry of Labour promises to address problems
Kaieteur News – The Ministry of Labour is urging local oil and gas workers to report their employment concerns to the agency so that it can adequately address irregularities taking place with the sector.
There have been numerous reports regarding unethical practices in securing Guyanese services for the development of the oil sector, but authorities say that not enough of those are being officially reported to allow the Government to properly intervene.
Ministry officials were at the time answering questions regarding employment issues at the Trinidad Offshore Fabricators Unlimited (TOFCO) and Guyana Oil and Gas Support Services (GOGSSI) joint venture, where among other things, Guyanese complained about poor treatment at the Saipem Yard where they work, not being paid overtime or as the foreign employees despite acquiring the requisite skills, wanton dismissal and the abrupt decisions to send home locals instead of foreigners when work is low. All of this, they implied is afforded under contracts that would have been put in place after workers complained bitterly about being sent home for months because of no work. Workers continued to complain about being fired or disciplined for highlighting or reporting matters that affect them.
Chief Labour Officer, Dhaneshwar Deonarine, told the Kaieteur News that he has heard some of the complaints coming from the local oil and gas workers before, but insisted that affected employees must make a report to allow the Ministry the facts so that it could address the situation. “If we don’t have a complaint, we won’t know the issue,” Deonarine told the newspaper. “If they write me, and I have been doing this and once I get anything I can act on, I can call them (employer) in.” The Chief Labour Officer said that it would be even better if the workers could come into the Ministry and speak directly with an officer. The more urgent the matter, the sooner action could be taken, he indicated.
Deonarine explained however that when a complaint is made by a worker against their employer, a confrontation must be held. Workers insist that after making complaints about their employers, they are victimized; disciplined or fired. The labour officer noted that once the employee has a grievance with an employer but is not part of a labour union, “then the ministry must put the allegation to the employer. The process is this, if you come and make a complaint against your employer, first thing we will do is write your employer and invite your employer to a meeting with you. Our process involves engaging the employer and the employee together,” Deonarine clarified.
He continued that on the other hand, when the report is made, then the Ministry knows exactly what needs addressing. He said when the Ministry intervenes in such labour matters, it looks for wage records and leave records, among others, to address these types of renumeration matters which affect the workers. But unless there is a complaint, then the agency may not know what is happening, Deonarine reiterated. He said that sometimes the agency may see something in the news and if it is enough to go on, “then we may even intervene and bring persons in as that has been done before.”
As it relates to the joint venture, the Chief Labour Officer remembered intervening in another matter earlier this year where the workers were sent home because there was no work available. In that case, some joint venture workers had gone to the Ministry, complained, and the agency was able to resolve the issue. Deonarine said he intervened directly where that issue was concerned. He imparted his understanding of workers’ reservations in complaining about their employers but urged nonetheless that workers’ complaint to the Ministry is the agency’s first step towards addressing the situation.
Labour Minister Joseph Hamilton also raised concern over workers not making reports to the state so that it could be responded to appropriately. He told the newspaper that he was not aware of many oil and gas work related complaints but urged workers to visit the agency. He suggested too that even he would intervene in a matter by taking details and following up with his officers.
“We need to have some kind of details, something that I can refer to when I am speaking to my officers. I can frame it where I’m sending both (occupational and health safety officer (OHSO) and labour officers to the development and deal with the other issues. But we have to get some background,” Minister Hamilton clarified. At a workshop Tuesday, Hamilton called on subcontracts and other support base companies to stop the unethical behaviour against Guyanese. He said his ministry will do everything it could to protect everyone working in Guyana.
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