About 70 workers of Schlumberger, an international oil and gas service provider operating in the Republic of Ghana, have been asked to go home for one full year without pay.
According to the workers, management gave them letters last month to go home without pay with the explanation that COVID-19 was having impact on the company.
However, the workers view management’s action as unfair labour practice and are protesting it.
The workers believe it is not likely the company would recall all the suspended workers, hence, are demanding full severance package as agreed in their 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
The Chairman of the Schlumberger Workers’ Union, Bright Kwabena Danquah said some might move on after one year without pay, hence, their demand for their full severance package as has been given to their counterparts in Nigeria, instead of the 40 percent package.
“Management served us letters last month to negotiate on a redundancy package. We met to negotiate, but after the third sitting of negotiations, management started becoming recalcitrant and also started issuing out unlawful letters of suspended employment without pay for one year to members. Some of the conditions in the letter are so appalling. So all we are trying to make management aware is that when we are on the negotiation table, you do not do such things. The moment you start doing such things, then, you’re putting us under duress to accept something that is not right. We have an MOU signed with management in 2016, which I took my time to read the document to management so that the document would guide all of us in our negotiations. They said that they have heard, but instead of paying us our four months’ consolidated salaries, they are choosing to pay us something around 40 percent of that. The union, including the national [union], rejected it since that cut is in breach of the MOU.”
According to him, they want the same package as has been given to their Nigerian counterparts.
“When we asked why they are trying to cut our benefits, they said COVID-19. But this company has been making millions of dollars, in fact, one particular department can make 8 million dollars in revenue a month, and this same company is telling us they are broke because of COVID-19. We should be fair to ourselves, when workers elsewhere have been paid their redundancy packages. Our point is that they should give us what is due us and let us go home. I don’t know my future if I’m going to get a job now. We have expatriates that have gone home and paid almost 2 million dollars. In fact, they are cutting off about 60 percent of what is due us when, in Nigeria, they have paid all the workers their due. So why is it that when it comes to Ghana, they do that? They took the matter to arbitration and as we speak, the Petroleum Commission and Labour Commission are not sitting because of this COVID-19.”
Bright Danquah said the suspended workers are disappointed in the role Ghanaian managers and lawyers of Schlumberger are playing in this unfair treatment.
The Ghanaian Petroleum workers have, thus, called on the Energy Ministry and the Petroleum Commission to quickly intervene and resolve the matter.
Meanwhile, Accra-based Citi FM has quoted an HR representative of the company, Emefa Efua Dzamefe as saying that the company was addressing the issues in line with Ghana’s national labour guidelines.
“The world is going through an unprecedented global health and economic crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. The effect of this crisis on the oil and gas industry was amplified by a battle for market share between the world’s largest oil producers. This combination has created shocks in both oil supply and demand, resulting in the most challenging environment for the industry in many decades.
As a direct result of this environment, our activity level is drastically reduced; much of our operational capacity is unneeded.”
“In Ghana, GOS Limited is therefore aligning its resources with activity level. In this context, we are in dialogue with union executives about workforce rationalization. These decisions are always very difficult, as we understand the impact on our employees and the local community. GOS Limited is addressing the situation in accordance with the national labour guidelines. Our priority remains the safety of our employees and contractors, and to make this transition as smooth as possible to maintain business continuity for our customers.”
Meanwhile, information available to energynewsafrica.com indicates that Petroleum Commission has scheduled a meeting with the workers and management of Schlumberger on Monday, June 29, 2020.