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Equal pay for drillship workers but unions must understand industry -new oil company

(Left to right) Stena Carron rig manager, Chris Hutton; Chairman of Unicon (Guyana), Dr. Arlington Chesney; Chief Operations Office of Unicon (Ghana), Mark Ebbah; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Karen Cummings; Foreign Secretary, Carl Greenidge and Dr. Patrick Antoine.

The recently established Unicon Guyana Inc. (UGI), which includes a well-established Ghanaian company, has promised that the workers it will hire, train and place aboard oil rigs will receive equal pay with their foreign counterparts, but trade unions must come to grips with the reality of working conditions aboard drillships.

“Specifically, I want to say that once I’m Chairman, UGI will not discriminate negatively against Guyanese nationals in terms of pay for the same job,” said Company Chairman, Dr. Arlington Chesney at the official launch of the company. Chesney explained that training would take some time and so initially Guyanese might not have the same level of experience which would result in differences in pay.

His assurance came months after a company with Trinidad and Tobago connections had been accused of paying foreign workers more compared to Guyanese workers in the same positions such as seafarers. A number of seafarers had also lodged complaints with the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure.

While stating that UGI would be a “law-abiding corporate citizen” and would abide by Guyana’s laws, he said stakeholders should be aware of the working conditions aboard drillships. “We must understand that there are certain conditions under which people work on a rig and these conditions are really immutable and, therefore, there needs to be a very close relationship between the worker, the manager, and others,” he said. “UGI will respect the laws of Guyana but we also expect workers to respect the terms and conditions,” he added.

The Trade Union Recognition and Certification Act provides for the recognition of trade unions at places of employment once the workers vote overwhelmingly for such bargaining agents.

No high-profile representative of the local private sector organisations under the umbrella of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) was present at the event that was held at the Herdmanston Lodge.

This is believed to be the first business-to-business linkage between Guyana and Ghana, the three-month-old joint venture between Amazonia Expert Services (AES) and Unicon Western Holdings’ Unicon Western Engineering Services.

Majority shareholder of AES, Ambassador Dr. Patrick Antoine said UGI would be positioning itself as a major service provider for the oil and gas sector in the wider Caribbean Community (Caricom) which provides for the free movement of labour, capital, goods and services in the regional single market.

“The joint venture, too, is fashioned in the context of the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and is intended to forge a partnership in the oil and gas space with potential benefits to all of Caricom,” said Dr. Antoine, a well-known economist and regional trade expert. He listed the benefits like training and certification, job placement of Guyanese and other Caricom nationals, and the provision of a range of downstream services.

Grenada, from which Dr. Antoine hails, discovered oil and gas deposits offshore.

He hailed the business partnership as one that “infuses much-needed oxygen for lasting integration between the countries of Africa and countries of the Caribbean” as well as creates “a new lawyer” of regionalism that has been created by governments.

Chris Hutton who is the Rig Manager of the drillship, Stena Carron, that has been working offshore Guyana since early 2016, hailed the work of Unicon (Ghana) in providing highly trained and motivated staff in line with internationally-recognised health, safety and environmental standards.

“Although I have not personally worked with Unicon, I can say that Stena drilling’s relationship with Unicon Group of Companies has been very positive, very successful and mutually beneficial in Ghana for several years,” he said.

In 2017, Stena and Unicon established a joint venture drilling company.