Oil industry hinders unionisation
Mr Peter M. Jimpetey-Djan, Western Regional Chairman of ICU.
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The working conditions in the oil and gas industry continues to make it difficult for workers to unionise, a situation which threatens the welfare of workers.

The difficulty stems from the high rate of short term contract jobs and the use of recruitment agents in the industry.

The situation, according to Mr Peter M. Jimpetey-Djan, Western Regional Chairman of Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU), remains a major concern for workers.

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In an interview with ADR Daily in Takoradi, he indicated that the conditions in most of the companies make it virtually impossible to unionise, explaining that the short term contracts do not enable the workers to organize themselves.

Also, he said many of the workers do not know their actual employers to be able to negotiate their terms of employment, adding that most of them are engaged by recruitment agents popularly known in the sector as “middlemen.”

“Some of the workers want to be unionise, but because it is not a direct and long term employment, even if you are able to unionise them, you find the next time you visit the company that their contracts have expired and they would have to leave,” he said.

Many times, he said, workers would be contracted in Ghana but would find themselves working for the company in another country at the expiration of their contract.

“You have no option than to end your contract there,” he said.

The situation, he said makes it difficult for the ICU and other unions to monitor the welfare of workers in the oil and gas industry, indicating that monitoring the welfare of workers, especially those working offshore, is virtually impossible.

Mr Jimpetey-Djan noted that since companies use recruitment agents and contract jobs to cut cost of labour by not paying the remuneration they would have paid permanent workers, companies would continue to create conditions that would hinder unionization.

“The companies cheat the workers by using these middlemen. Sometimes it is difficult to know the employer directly. They will tell you the employer is in Switzerland, Germany or this and that country.

“They know the unions would not allow such cheating so they would find ways of preventing the unions from coming in,” he said.

However, he said the ICU had been working to overcome those challenges by using various means such as investigating complaints of aggrieved workers, tracing actual employers or parent companies for welfare negotiations, and building partnership between the union and companies in the sector.

Asked about the effect of the oil boom on workers in general in the region, Mr Jimpetey-Djan said the oil industry was negatively impact on workers as it shot up the cost of living in the region.

He explained that the cost rent and food items continue to shoot up in the region, adding that only workers in the industry are the ones benefitting due to the high remuneration.

By Nii Adotey/adrdaily.com

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