Oil workers win workplace respect

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Dear Editor

The GAWU Oil and Gas Branch remains convinced that its work among workers in our nascent oil and gas sector remains relevant to ensuring that workers rights are respected.

Through our efforts and with the assistance of several brave workers, a foreign multinational enterprise operating in Guyana has recently informed its employees that it is committed to respecting all workers rights. This represents a major success for the workers of the company and more so the sector given the many reports of exploitative practices being perpetuated.

Previously, the GAWU had drawn to attention that the company, in its employment contracts, explicitly denied workers their right to belong to trade unions. The inclusion of such a prohibitive clause ran counter to the Constitution of Guyana which guarantees such rights to all workers. This was among several other issues workers of the company brought to the GAWU’s knowledge.

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Our Union subsequently informed the Ministry of Labour. GAWU was later informed that Company was advised by the Ministry that it needed to remove the offensive condition. Though the company committed to same, GAWU’s follow-up with employees revealed that the commitment did not materialize. This was communicated to the Ministry and a further engagement with the Company. Following that engagement, the Company, by memorandum, informed its employees that it was respectful of all labour rights and standards. This is a significant move given the previous aversion to upholding workers rights.

Workers in the sector also scored another victory through the insistence by the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) to have foreign-flagged vessels in the sector have onboard a copy of their Seafarers Employment Agreement. That agreement would advise of important matters such as wages, hours of work, and other benefits. Previously, many workers in the sector have indicated to GAWU they are in the dark regarding how their pay and benefits are calculated. Indeed, we are hopeful that the MARAD decision is implemented by all vessels. At this time, we urge that serious consideration be given to the ratification of the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention which strengthens protections to workers employed offshore. Indeed, given the challenges workers are confronting, every effort should be pursued to ensure that they are protected.

On this score, the GAWU is aware that fear-mongering is utilized by some enterprises to dissuade workers from speaking up. Such ploys are not new but demonstrate the ends pursued by those who accumulate wealth from the workers efforts. We detest such measures and see such pressures as, yet another means to cheat workers out of their due benefits. The victories demonstrate, without a doubt, the achievements workers can realize and the respect they can earn when they work together with organizations aligned with their interests. We certainly believe greater victories are possible and we encourage workers to continue to engage our Union to ensure that their rights are respected.

Regards
Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union



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