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El Dorado Offshore-hired seafarers could be fired for disclosing wages, benefits

Even as the Guyana-registered El Dorado Offshore maintained that it only hires Guyanese to work aboard oil industry vessels offshore Guyana, that company conceded that seafarers would violate their contract if they disclose their wages and employment conditions to the Labour Department, but the company could not block government from probing complaints.

El Dorado Offshore’s Manpower and Recruitment Director, Natasha Jairam-Abai confirmed that a provision of the contract, which was read to her by one of the reporters, states that that entity “may terminate the employment immediately” for “disclosing information, not available to the general public, about EDO or EDO’s business plans, the vessel or any other information about the nature of employment, such as wages and benefits, to any third party”.

At first, Jairam-Abai said that is not stated in the contract but when it was read to her and she checked her computer, she confirmed that it is one of the provisions. If a seaman goes to the Ministry of Labour or the media and complains about the wages and salaries, she said “that violates the contract indeed but we will investigate the matter because clearly our clause because it’s clearly our seamen”. At the same time, the El Dorado Offshore official assured that “we would investigate the situation” although Labour is a third-party. “Even though Labour is considered a third party, we are still under the guidelines of the country which means we are still subject to the Factory Laws. If Labour wants to investigate such a matter that has been brought to their attention, we can’t say ‘no’. That is part of the Labour rights of the employee.

This concern was raised by a number of seafarers, who reiterated to reporters at the headquarters of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), that they were being discriminated against in favour of nationals of Trinidad and Tobago  or Guyanese hired through El Dorado’s Trinidad offices.

The contract also clearly states that working hours will consist of approximately 12 hours per day including Saturday, Sunday and holidays. As such holidays will be paid at regular time. The Manpower and Recruitment Director of El Dorado Offshore, however, explained there is a split between the normal eight hour working day and the remaining hours are treated as time-and-a-half that would be totalled to calculate their salaries.

Jairam-Abai agreed that workers should be paid double for holidays and that concern has been raised with Edison Chouest. “As it is, you are correct. They are supposed to be paid for certain holidays as double and certain holidays as time-and-a-half,” she said.

On the issue of pay, she said El Dorado Offshore has negotiated the best deal on behalf of the workers, based on globally available rates for various positions that are offered on the ships. She declined to disclose details.

Jairam-Abai again rejected the claim of employment discrimination by stressing that their company only hires Guyanese to work aboard the drill-ships and support vessels such as those being operated by Edison Chouest.  Edison Chouest recently entered into a 50-50 partnership with John Fernandes Limited to create a new company named G-Boats.

President of the Guyana Human Rights Association, Mike Mc Cormack said he would advise the seafarers, who said they have chalked up decades of experience in their various fields, to lodge complaints with the Ministry of Social Protection’s Department of Labour. Though the workers said they are unionised, they said that organisation has not aired their grievances with the companies or the Labour Department.

The company has been awarded by the Shipping Association of Guyana for its priority being place on local content.

Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson has said that last year he intervened on behalf of the workers after receiving their complaints of discrimination in favour of Trinidadians.