Ghana’s Oil and Gas upstream industry regulator, the Petroleum Commission, Ghana (PCG) says it will take concrete steps to deal with issues regarding the salaries of Ghanaians working on offshore vessels to prevent further agitations.
This comes on the heels of agitations on some vessels at sea due to alleged shortchanging of Ghanaians working offshore.
Adom Business has been reporting allegations of recruitment agencies conniving with rig and other offshore vessel owners to shortchange locals, at the blind side of the regulator.
Local riggers accused the regulator of siding with agencies and rig owners to the detriment of Ghanaians, and described the Commission as a “sleeping toothless tiger”.
They pointed to several provisions in Ghana’s oil and gas industry Local Content Policy, to which the Commission is violating, adding that there was need for the commission to act swiftly to prevent further worker agitations.
Recently, some Ghanaian workers on Jack Ryan rig held a sit-down strike, demanding 25% salary increase, but got 17%. Another group of offshore workers on FPSO Kwame Nkrumah MV21 also joined in the recent Organized Labour nationwide strike.
The offshore workers have threatened to hold more strike actions at sea if their requests for fair wages are not heeded. Their message was clear; “this is just the beginning.”
But officials of the Commission have been telling Adom Business “we have already been holding meetings with the stakeholders to find a way forward but we are going to intensify efforts to ensure we reached a lasting solution quickly to forestall further offshore agitations.”
The Commission said in a statement it has already engaged with rig workers and with the recruitment agencies to put in place a salary structure for offshore workers.
It said the Commission also continues to engage with International Oil Companies (IOCs) to provide Ghanaians with designated jobs, training and commensurate remuneration in line with the local content policy for the industry.
The commission is therefore urging the local workers on the offshore vessels to put a hold on their planned strike actions, as the commission expedites action on the issues regarding fair wages and training for local workers.
“The Commission would like to assure all categories of personnel in the upstream petroleum industry that efforts are being put in place to ensure best practices in the industry…” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Marketing and Communications Officer at the Commission, Eddy Nartey told Adom Business “we have already put in place a complaint system to enable all stakeholders to make complaints directly to the Commission without disclosing their identity.”
Director for Special Services at the Commission, Kwaku Boateng observed that there is lack of transparency in the dealings between the agencies and rig owners, and that creates suspicion among local workers.
“One of the first things we would be doing is to push the agencies and expatriate rig owners to be transparent with the workers and have a documented procedure of how monies are disbursed,” he said.
Kwaku Boateng argued that the agencies stood to earn more if they were able to negotiate higher salaries for their local riggers, so it was not in the interest of any recruitment agency to be conniving with rig owners to shortchange their workers.
He however explained that recruitment agencies tend to save some of their earnings against hard times in the future, because some offshore vessels have limited periods to leave, and when they do, the agencies lose their income flow but still continue with their administrative cost until the vessel returns.
But Kwaku Boateng admitted that there was a lot that needed to be explained to all stakeholders about the way things work in the industry so “we are going to use vigorous engagement to deal with this matters decisively.”
CEO of Seaweld Engineering Limited, one of the recruitment agencies, Alfred Fafali Adagbedu has been telling Adom Business the company had an open door policy where it shows the salary slips of local workers to the rig owners to verify that the workers were being paid exactly what their contracts said.
He also explained that agencies make mandatory payments to the tune of thousands of dollars on behalf of every worker to cover safety and health before they go to the rig, plus other administrative costs.
Alfred Adagbedu is therefore challenging any worker who claimed he was being shortchanged to provide evidence of breach of contract by any agency.