Posted: Tuesday 12th August 2014 at 12:06 pm

Offshore pressure group fires back at Petroleum Commission


A pressure group of workers in various offshore oil fields around the world are very angry with comments by a director at the Petroleum Commission Ghana (PCG), Kwaku Boateng in response to a recent demonstration on FPSO Kwame Nkrumah MV21.

In a nine-page reply to the comments of the PCG director, copied to Adom News, the group, calling itself the Oil and Gas Vigilante, described the comments as unfortunate and disappointing, and described Kwaku Boateng as “a PRO (public relations officer) and paid agent of MODEC and the recruitment agencies”.

The group said they were disappointed that a Ghanaian regulator would defend the criminal discrimination and exploitation, in terms of salary disparity, going on in Ghana’s oil industry.

Kwaku Boateng had said in an interview with Adom News that Ghanaian offshore oil field workers were paid better than other Ghanaians working onshore, and their recruitment agencies do bear the cost of training for the workers and have other overheads.

 
Huge Salary Disparity
But the Vigilante group provided a report published by global oil and gas Industry recruitment experts Hays in 2013 on average annual salaries for offshore oil field workers across the globe.

The report, covering 32 countries, indicates a more than 300% difference between average salaries of Ghanaians and that of expatriates.

In that report, Ghanaian offshore oil field workers are paid an average of US$40,500 annual salary in 2013, while their expat counterparts, some of whom do similar jobs under same high risk conditions, earn an average of US$121,600 same year. [Source: Hays Oil and Gas Salary Guide 2013]

The salary disparity in Ghana is by far the highest in the world right now, as the report shows. The second highest level of disparity is over 250%, which happens in nearby Nigeria, and third is another African country, Angola; a little over 200% difference. In fact in the UK for instance, locals a little more than their expatriate colleagues. [Source: Hays website]

“If Kwaku Boateng and his colleagues at the Petroleum Commission cannot do their own research on our oil industry, they can at least find out what is happening around the globe through published industry reports such as the one from Hays instead of turning themselves into spokespersons for recruitment agencies,” the group said.

 
Nature of Offshore work
They also said it was very disingenuous for Kwaku Boateng to have compared offshore workers’ salaries with those of onshore workers.

The following is how the group described the nature of the work Ghanaians do offshore as compared with onshore workers:

Working offshore can be likened to the job of soldiers on a peace-keeping operations. All employees working offshore have a 50/50 chance of returning to their families or perish when they are journeying to the offshore facilities.

All offshore employees, including Ghanaians and expatriates, work in very hazardous environment, sitting and working on hydrocarbons every day, which is likely to explode at any time.

 
They fly helicopter on 12 occasions every year to the offshore facilities, which has the potential of ditching into the sea (one just occurred this year which claimed 4 lives on the spot).

 
All offshore employees are kept away from their families for six months out of the 12 months every year. Some employees have lost good family ties with their children, wives and husband while they were working offshore.

 
All offshore employees work 12 hours a day and are on call 24/7 for the 28 days they spend offshore on a rotation.

 
They have no access to entertainment or recreation to release stress while onboard the offshore facilities for 28 days.

 
Aside their normal job responsibilities, they also serve as emergency response personnel, a job which has its own stress levels and risk factors.

 
There are several Ghanaians who have worked to the admirations of MODEC and other rig managers, which resulted in replacing their expatriate back to backs with Ghanaians

 
We currently have Ghanaians working as back to backs of expatriate workers.

 
Training
On the issues of training, the group said there are mandatory training programs organized for all offshore workers, locals and expats, to ensure effectiveness and safe discharge of duties on the offshore facilities. Apart from that, there are no other special training programs.

This, according to the group, is in line with part III and XV, sections 9 (c) and 118, 2 (c) respectively of the Labour Law (Act 651), which places the responsibility of training workers on the employer.

Moreover, they noted that out of six training program designed for offshore workers, locals only get to enjoy one, and that is even done onshore, prior to going to the rigs, FPSO and supply vessels.

“Kwaku Boateng should know that recruitment agencies have been using this excuse about training to indemnify themselves from any liabilities regarding the welfare of the workers, which does not happen in the case of the expats who even get to enjoy all six training programs,” they said.

“If we have people like Kwaku Boateng in such positions who fail to promote the interest of the nation and the citizens who are being exploited by foreign companies like MODEC and the other recruitment agencies then we will continue to be slaves in our own country,” the group added.

The group is challenging Kwaku Boateng and his colleagues at PCG to pay regular visits to the offshore vessels and get firsthand information about the risks and the intensity of the work Ghanaians do on those vessels as compared with their expat colleagues, instead of visiting recruitment agency offices onshore.

The group has promised to come out with more facts to show the exploitation in Ghana’s oil industry and to show how weak the Petroleum Commission and Ghana government had been in dealing with the issue.

  Story by Ghana/Adom Business/Samuel Nii Narku Dowuona

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