Suspended workers of Schlumberger, an international oil and gas service provider operating in Ghana, are demanding full severance package as agreed in their 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
The Chairman of the Schlumberger Workers Union, Bright Kwabena Danquah, told Citi Business News the company last month gave letters to about 60 of its Ghanaian workers to go on one year suspended employment without pay due to the impact of COVID-19.
He said it is not likely the company would recall all the suspended workers. He 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 of 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 it, 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.”
The Schlumberger Workers Union Chairman said 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, 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 issues.
An Executive Member of the Schlumberger Workers Union, Sylvester Boadi, told Citi Business News in Takoradi that the reasons given for the suspension are totally unfair.
The management of Schlumberger in a reply to Citi Business News signed by an HR Representative, Emefa Efua Dzamefe, said the company is 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 in regard to 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.”