According to him, “in international maritime law that is tantamount to mutiny” because workers cannot under any circumstances decline to work when they are on an oil rig.
“I am totally against lock out on the FPSO because it amounts to serious breach of security,” he told Live News’ Parliamentary Correspondent, Ekow Annan.
It will be recalled that about two weeks ago, workers of MODEC, managers of the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah declared a sit down strike to demand better conditions of service.
The workers among others claimed that, with the same requisite qualifications as expatriate staff, they received much less than what was paid the foreign staff.
But Dr Kwabena Donkor has criticised their decision to embark on the strike action and described it as unfortunate. “Well what has happened over the couple of weeks as regards workers and then the management of MODEC is unfortunate,” he said.
Speaking in an exclusive interview, Dr Donkor urged the workers to desist from striking while on the oil rig since it has serious safety implications.
“I don’t have a problem if workers refuse to go on the FPSO, but I have a problem when workers on the FPSO refuse to work and lock up management or lock up facilities because it has serious safety implications……. Workers can stay off going on the FPSO as a tool of negotiation provided it is in the remit of the law, but shutting down the FPSO could endanger not just the FPSO but our safety maritime record,” he said.
The former Deputy Minister of Energy continued that there was no way local’s and expatriate staff are going to receive the same pay.
“Everywhere in the world its part of the practice expatriate’s earns more than locals. Ghanaians working in the oil industry elsewhere as expatriates, earn more than the indigenes. Let’s recognize that as a fundamental position. It’s not just in Ghana, it’s everywhere in the world. Expatriates are paid some kind of allowances that are peculiar to them only and not the locals.”
Explaining further, he said “It is unfair to pay Ghanaians workers a pittance if they are doing similar work with expatriate workers but we must also be careful. You may be doing what superficially looks are similar but may not be similar, a television camera man and a television reporter may not be doing the same work. Different skills are needed; different level of experience, we should be careful. It is not a black or white situation. I don’t like the way the issue is being presented this is not US versus THEM.”
Dr Donkor also urged the Petroleum Commission and relevant authorities to as a matter of urgency address the grievances of the workers.
“The petroleum commission as a regulator would have to play a more active role than it has played now, working with the appropriate state agencies, labour department etc. The issues have to be resolved but Foreign Service providers must also understand that Ghanaians are maturing in the industry, Ghanaians are becoming increasingly alert and in negotiating terms, equity and fairness must be put in place. The petroleum commission, the labour department the unions and the Foreign Service providers must all come together to find a solution. We are only three years in production so this is a new area and of course in all new developments such problems are bound to rise but it is the way we deal with them,” he told Ekow Annan.
Meanwhile, the remainder of the Ghanaian workers of MODEC Ltd have quit their jobs in solidarity with their dismissed colleagues.
The company last Monday dismissed 29 Ghanaians for taking part in a sit-down strike to back demands for improved conditions of service.
Five of the workers, who were offshore working, asked to be airlifted to base last Tuesday while seven others, who were to resume duty, refused to go in protest at the dismissal of their colleagues.