Displacement of Guyanese by foreign workers a major concern – GAWU

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) has engaged with Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn on the issue of foreigners displacing Guyanese workers in the oil industry.

GAWU President Seepaul Narine

Since the Union established its Oil and Gas Branch in June 2021, workers from the sector have continued discussions with the Union. Among the issues raised was a prominent concern that Guyanese are disadvantaged by the high percentage of foreigners, since the latter is given preference for employment.
“We indicated to the Minister that workers have informed our Union that in many instances there were locals who though capable of undertaking certain jobs were unable to grasp such opportunities as foreigners were apparently given preference,” GAWU shared in a statement.
Some workers had complained that they were required to demonstrate to their foreign superiors how they should undertake their tasks. In other cases, GAWU said, it appears as though some foreign workers had not possessed the relevant documents to work in the country.
“In the sector, we communicated, such occurrences were fostering some level of acrimony between local and foreigners. We also indicated to the Home Affairs Minister that we have recently learnt that some firms were recruiting foreigners to unskilled and semi-skilled jobs which can competently be performed by locals.”
Minister Benn shared that his Ministry has also heard of similar issues and where complaints are lodged, they are able to pursue investigations to address such matters.

Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn

“The Minister informed our Executive Committee when he took over the Ministry there was a need to expand the immigration infrastructure to address the volume of requests for work permits and other matters,” the statement added.
While Benn would have hinted at increased efforts to address such issues, he noted that there is need to upskill the labour force to match the demands of the economy. The Minister shared that given the rapid expansion of the country in the coming years, there may be need to develop programmes for Guyanese to capitalise on employment and opportunities.
He urged GAWU, whenever it receives information, to communicate same to his Ministry in order for such situations to be addressed. Meanwhile, the Home Affairs Minister also recognised the need for collaboration to ensure that Guyanese are protected; and that the enterprises have adequate and sufficient skills to realise their objectives.
After the engagement, GAWU shared, “We believed that the interaction was fruitful and timely and allowed several important matters to be communicated. In the coming times, the Union will continue to reach out to workers and where necessary inform the Ministry and Minister of information which comes to our hands. GAWU will also seek to play its role in upskilling our Guyanese labour and will in the coming weeks seek to consider steps it can take in this regard.”