GAWU concerned oil workers seemingly overworked and underpaid

GAWU Head Seepaul Narine
GAWU Head Seepaul Narine

Full statement from the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU)

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) following the announcement of its Oil and Gas branch has been contacted by several workers in the sector. The workers have welcomed the Union’s branch, applauding the GAWU’s proactiveness as they lamented their plight. During our interactions with workers employed in the sector, many have pointed to serious difficulties they face at their workplaces. Many of the workers have shared that their rates-of-pay when compared to foreign nationals are essentially chalk to cheese though they undertake similar duties. Moreover, they are required to work extended periods consistently. Apart from that after their long shifts they are required to attend meetings and undertake other briefings without any pay, restricting their time to rest and recuperate for another day’s work. This they shared is taking a significant toll on their physical and mental well-being.

The workers have shared with the Union they are not averse to working hard. At the same time, they expressed concern that, it appeared, that they were seen as robots without any feelings and anguish. From our engagements, the workers indicated to the Union that even when there is a brief respite in their substantive duties, they are made to undertake tasks which are not within their job descriptions. They indicated that they are not unwilling to cooperate but the manner of communication by some foreign supervisors and managers leaves a lot to be desired. This they shared is a big issue in the sector as it seemed to them that the foreigners treated them as lesser beings. For the Union, this is a serious concern, and we hold that no Guyanese should be made to feel as a second class citizen in their own country. Our history is replete with examples of the struggles of the Guyanese to overcome such tendencies and we cannot countenance any return of such periods in now independent Guyana.

Apart from that the workers shared that they feel cheated. They said when they were recruited certain conditions were promised to them. Some of them who have now worked for several years in the sector, indicated they were still awaiting the fulfillment of those commitments. Many have shared that they feel embarrassed to tell their friends and families where they work when they consider the shabby treatment they receive. When a computation was done of their earnings it was very revealing. In fact, we learnt several important benefits which organized workers benefit from are not extended to the oil sector workers though they undertake risky jobs. They noted too that sometimes, without warning, their stints offshore are extended and their attempts sometimes to secure their lawful entitlements are akin to going through an obstacle course. The workers also indicated they have learnt, unofficially, they their employers are paid princely sums for their work, yet they receive just a few crumbs. This if true is most disturbing and the GAWU abhors such actions.

The GAWU Oil and Gas branch has shared with the workers our perspectives on the issues discussed. We have committed to standing with them and speaking up on their behalf. The Union reiterates its call for all workers to engage us as we work collectively to addressing the plights the workers of the sector must confront. We believe that our nation’s workers must be treated fairly and without any prejudices. At this time, we encourage workers to reach out to us through WhatsApp – 623-GAWU (4298), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, our website (, email ([email protected]), telephone 227-2091/2, 225,2321 or by visiting our offices in Georgetown or New Amsterdam.