Though the current labour laws fall short in containing requisite protocols to govern the oil and gas sector, this does not stop the Trade Union movement from unionising workers operating within the sector, says General-Secretary of the Guyana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), Seepaul Narine.
Just last week, the issue with the labour laws was brought to the fore by the Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, Keith Scott.
The minister, who was at the time speaking on the government-owned National Communications Networks (NCN)’s programme “Insight”, said that with the advent of the oil industry, Guyana is faced with a type of labour relations that never existed before in its history. This alone, he said, calls for a review of the labour laws.
“Oil and gas has ushered into Guyana a new era; a new type of labour relations that never existed before. Even though you would have had mining, oil and gas is a whole new ball game. I don’t think our laws are properly geared to deal with how we go about relating to contractors; how we go about relating to the protection of workers who are offshore; how we classify workers that are offshore; and whether the oil rig is a factory or whether it is a ship. Those are the areas that we happen to be silent on at the moment in labour laws,” he said.
Narine told the Guyana Standard today, that the Trade Union Recognition Act provides for unionisation. He noted that the Act specifically provides for the improvement and promotion of industrial relations by the establishment of procedures for the certifying of trade unions as recognised majority unions and for the matters connected therewith.
He said that workers offshore are synonymous to those that work in the marine industry, who are also unionised. Referring to Russian-owned RUSAL company, Narine said that the unionising of local workers in international companies operating here is nothing new. Therefore, Guyanese who are employed by foreign companies that work onshore or offshore can be unionised, Narine said.
He admitted, however, that there might be glitches in the “technical” aspects of the laws in terms of terminologies, but he does not foresee any major hindrance in unions representing workers in the sector.
Narine said that with companies already mobilising in anticipating of first-oil next year, the local labour force will need representation, and trade unions must make strides now to ensure that workers are unionised.