OWTU signs oil, gas MOU with Guyanese union

OWTU president general Ancel Roget -
OWTU president general Ancel Roget -

AS Guyana entrenches itself as a competitive oil producer, one trade union is also seeking to establish itself as the bona-fide bargaining unit for energy workers there, and has turned to the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) for advice and guidance.

Having formed an oil and gas branch over the past year, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) engaged the OWTU, drawing on its 85 years' experience in an effort to improve its representation.

Those discussions culminated in the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two trade unions at the OWTU’s Paramount Building headquarters, San Fernando on Tuesday.

The MOU will see the OWTU offering its experience and knowledge with respect to health and safety, industrial relations, technical knowledge, how to deal with multinationals and global corporations and obtain the best deals for workers.

Signing on the dotted line were OWTU’s president general Ancel Roget and president of GAWU Seepaul Narine.

Roget explained this was an important development between the two unions, which he said had shared a fraternal relationship for many decades.

Narine said the MOU would deepen those relations and provide much-needed guidance to its union which would redound to the benefit of its workers.

GAWU is the only union in Guyana, like the OWTU in Trinidad and Tobago, he said, that has taken on the responsibility of organising oil and gas workers and shares the philosophy that workers ought to be central to national and regional development and of any sector.

“Therefore it stands to reason that (in) the recent development of the oil and gas sector in Guyana, they would turn to their brother union for advice, counsel, support, direction, training and development and assistance really, in how best to have their workers, their people from Guyana, benefit from the resources of the land.

Roget said he wanted to spare the Guyanese people and those from the region, including Trinidad and Tobago, who, having been retrenched from the sector here and have found employment over there, from exploitation. He said workers and people of Guyana have the right to know their value and benefit from the resources of their land.

Emphasising TT was developed primarily on the backs, shoulders and strength of workers in the energy sector who risked lives and limbs to be the "breadbasket" of the country, Roget said as the ones turning the wheels of the economy, the OWTU sought to get the best representation and benefits for them.

“It was no easy task. It still is not an easy task, because today, there is an attempt to roll back all of those benefits.”

He said overwhelming support will be given to the Guyanese people in the sector in treating with the multinational companies TT has had experience with, to prevent them from extracting Guyana’s wealth and leaving that country pauperised.

Narine expressed gratitude to the OWTU for agreeing to assist in organising the fast-developing sector, where he said workers were already being denied their rights.

Contractors and suppliers of labour, he said, have denied workers protective personal equipment, overtime payment, annual leave with pay and other benefits which the laws of that country allow for. He said although the right to union representation is enshrined in Guyana’s constitution, some suppliers of labour are also denying them that right.

“We reached a point where we had to step up our level of representation to workers. Recognising we are not fully knowledgeable of the sector, we turned to the OWTU, which has been doing this for 85 years, and would have faced the same problems we are facing now.

“We are thankful for the OWTU reaching this level of collaboration with us. This is a glorious opportunity for workers to have an opportunity to be respected and enjoy decent working conditions.

For the union, “it allows us to extend our many years of militant representation and service to them. We have had a long history of standing up and defending workers and this is just another step. We are prepared and stand up and take on that fight.”


"OWTU signs oil, gas MOU with Guyanese union"

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