Govt warns Chinese oil firm against harassing local staff

Legislators on the Human Rights Committee of Parliament at Kingfisher-2 oil well in Hoima District last month. The lawmakers were probing alleged human rights violations on oil operations. File photo

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Marginalised. Staff complain of harassment, unfair treatment of Ugandan workers in comparison to their expatriate colleagues

Kampala. The government has directed the company that is developing the Kingfisher oilfield to address complaints by its Ugandan workers that the company mistreats them.
This follows fresh accusations by some of the workers that China National Offshore Oil Corporation Uganda Limited (CNOOC), overlooks Ugandans’ safety when it is deploying staff to dangerous environs such as water, and the firm brings in unqualified Chinese, who then frustrate the careers of highly qualified Ugandans, among others.
The Kingfisher oilfield is near Lake Albert and is estimated to have 635 million–barrels–of–oil. The workers also fault (CNOOC), for paying allowances to only expatriates. Mr Ernest Rubondo, commissioner of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD), has now weighed in on the issue by saying CNOOC should fix its “human resource challenges”.
Through a September 24, letter to Mr Xiao Zongwei, the president CNOOC, Mr Rubondo said, “The purpose of this communication is to advise CNOOC to address the issues raised…We wish to know what CNOOC has done to solve the human resource issues so as to avoid negative publication.”
CNOOC Uganda yesterday said it was pursuing a win-win relationship with host country, partners and residents, and reiterated it values its staff as well as its stakeholders. In a statement to this newspaper, Ms Aminah Bukenya, the public relations supervisor corporate affairs, said: “Internal discussions, meetings and speak up policy as well as other communication channels have been developed to address the issues raised.”
She added: “CNOOC Uganda reiterates its commitment to transparency and fairness as we seek to further develop national content in its host country. For the human resource policies; including recruitment and compensation, we abide by the best practices in the industry and strictly follow all international conventions. We respect and provide necessary support to individuals who make the decision to move on from our employment.”

The background
In June some of CNOOC Ugandan workers accused the company of paying them 16 per cent of what it pays its expatriate/Chinese workers. - The lowest paid Chinese worker earns Shs43 million gross salary monthly whereas the highest paid Ugandan gross is Shs7 million [monthly]. Further, the workers claimed the Chinese officials said since Uganda had not contributed money to CNOOC’s activities, Ugandans had no right to make demands on CNOOC.