Seafarers call for legislation to protect against exploitation, biased employment
Exxon hiring practicesOutraged seafarers are now calling for legislation to be set up to protect their, and other Guyanese rights, as they believe they are being exploited and less favoured by El Dorado Offshore (EDO), a subsidiary of Ramps Logistics, that has been employing citizens to work in Guyana for oil giant, ExxonMobil .A group of steamy seamen on Thursday joined their voices, backed by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), while requesting for their names to be withheld for safety purposes.It was explained that although EDO has denied hiring Trinidadians, the group had photographic evidence of the company conducting a hiring campaign in Trinidad.The disappointed group of men told members of the media that they believe their concerns are being swept under the rug, despite meeting with Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson and junior Minister within the Ministry, Annette Ferguson.In fact, the men said it was just May of this year that they met with the junior Minister who assured that the issue would have been addressed in Parliament.Several issues were raised by those workers on Thursday, including the well-positioned jobs being given to Trinidadians and the foreigners being treated better than locals.According to them, their contract would only allow them to work for a 28-day period, whereby Trinidadians are given more extended contracts with EDO.They also contended that those employees are being paid more money in United States (US) currency and would benefit from transportation allowances, among others. The workers said while the foreigners were entitled to these privileges, they would have to bare their own expenses.An experienced engineer who was among the men expressed how frustrated he was as the company has been turning him down at every attempt he makes to apply for the engineer position. He said although he knows the position is available and that he is fully competent for the position, his application was never acknowledged.Breach of lawsThe seafarers are now of the firm belief that they are being exploited as the company they are employed with is breaching the laws of Guyana.As outlined by the men on Thursday, the laws of Guyana clearly allow for workers to be paid double their daily salaries on holidays and Sundays. According to the workers, the contract they signed with the company did not make provision for this law. In fact, they are only paid double on Sundays. Other workers from various ships who work under the same company complained of not being paid double at all while some on another ship said they are paid double only on holidays.EmployeesEl Dorado Offshore has since refuted the claims of these workers. Guyana Times was told that the company has denied the allegations saying that it has in fact hired over 70 per cent Guyanese.Next moveThe seafarers, who said they have already engaged their superiors on the matter to no avail, added that they are now contemplating their next move.According to them, the matters affecting them have been raised multiple times in meetings which would just lead to them being assured that their issues would be “looked into”.In fact, it was just two or three months ago the men noted that the matter was raised.The men are now clamouring for a law to be set up to protect their rights. In addition, they said they believe that seamen seeking employment in Guyana should be given a work permit rather than just showing up here in Guyana for jobs, snatching the opportunity away from locals.Human rightsCommenting on the issue, an official at the GHRA deemed the behaviour of the employers unacceptable. The officer said the contractual agreements outlined for the workers are “outrageous”.Just last week these very concerns were brought to light by seafarers at the recent Policy Forum Guyana (PFG) open space meeting on oil and gas, held at the New Amsterdam Technical Institute, where members of the Guyana Seafarer’s and General Workers Union (GS&GWU) protested against actions of the Trinidadian company.Earlier this year, the Union had written to Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge about the alleged discrimination which was transpiring.Local ContentIt has been argued that the primary aim of the local content policy should be to ensure the education, inclusion, and advancement of as many Guyanese as possible in the oil industry.The draft local content policy has been criticised in recent months for lacking provisions which would safeguard against exploitation by companies, especially since there have been intensified reports of the local companies being bypassed for contracts and services with foreign companies being favoured.According to the draft local content framework document, the policy seeks to address the suite of opportunities that may arise and the approaches to be taken in selecting and developing opportunities related to enhancing the capabilities of Guyanese nationals and businesses through training and well-tailored social contributions for greater impact and benefits among others.The second review of the local content policy is expected to be completed by the first quarter of next year.