Guyana’s new Minister of Labour, Joseph Hamilton has been engaging oil companies to address issues in the oil and gas sector such as equal pay for Guyanese workers. According to the official, companies including ExxonMobil and Tullow Oil have committed to addressing these concerns with their sub-contractors.
Mr. Hamilton said with the reestablishment of the Ministry of Labour by the new administration, focus is being placed on three key pillars, one of which is workers’ rights.
Speaking on a recently aired local radio show, Mr. Hamilton stated, “The third pillar is the protection of workers’ rights in all its facets, the whole issue of equal pay for equal work. Most especially some of the issues that I have heard, and you might have heard about in the oil and gas industry.”
He went on to say, “I have had those conversations with those businesses, the companies that are in the oil and gas industry – what my expectations of them are and I will hold them to some of the things that I have put before them and some of the commitments they have made.”
He noted that the allegations of unequal pay do not involve the oil companies directly, but the sub-contractors that are hired by them. “I have raised that with ExxonMobil when they met me. I raised it today with Tullow when they met me and to be fair to them, I have said to them, ‘these allegations revolve and surround your contractor or sub-contractors,’ Mr. Hamilton emphasised.
In relation to ExxonMobil, who he said is the most well-known operator in Guyana in the petroleum sector, the Minister noted that often, the company is on the receiving end of blame for any allegations of poor practices. “…from the Guyanese people’s standpoint, the only people that come to their mind when we discuss oil and gas, is Exxon. The other people they really don’t pay much attention to them. They don’t know many of them that are subcontractors or contractors for Exxon.”
As it relates to local content development, Mr. Hamilton believes that once locals have the qualifications and capacity to be employed in a vacant position, they should be given preferential treatment. “Once the skill exists in Guyana, a Guyanese should be given the first opportunity to be employed,” he iterated. He also acknowledged that Guyana does not yet have the human resources to fill some of the technical positions. “I said to the oil and gas industry companies I have thus far engaged that you have the responsibility to create all the necessary conditions to ensure that Guyanese are equipped with the necessary skills to function effectively and efficiently in the oil and gas industry,” he said. “And I made this point to them that from a business standpoint, it is better for them because if you have a Guyanese with the skills working with the company, the expenses would be less.”
Mr. Hamilton said the companies he has engaged so far have committed to ensure that the issue of equal pay for equal work is addressed.