Tuesday, August 05, 2008

U.S. Oil, imported workers

A Businessweek article alleges that several energy services companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico used third parties that hired workers from Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines and other countries.

I don't mean to sound protectionist here - in fact, some anonymous nut accused me of trying to destroy the US by giving away medical care - but a suit filed by an American worker alleges that the foreign workers were underpaid.

Ireland's office at Oceanwide Houston declined requests for comment. Spokespeople for Humares and its subsidiaries declined to comment on the issues raised in the suit. A spokeswoman for C-Mar Group, another staffing company named in the suit, also declined to comment.

Once aboard the vessels, the workers are paid 20%-40% of what a U.S. worker such as Johnson would earn, says the plaintiff's attorney. For example, Jenggi Kaloum, an Iban worker for Stolt Offshore referenced in the 2005 Ireland deposition, was paid $40 per 12-hour day, while an American worker would make $200 or more per day for the same work. Kaloum could not be reached for comment. Once offshore, the workers can remain on vessels for 150 days in a row, earning no overtime, says Buzbee. He says the workers are paid only when they return to their home countries with money routed by the staffing firm.

Spokespersons for Offshore Specialty Fabricators, Offshore Express, J. Ray McDermott, Global Industries, and Acergy declined to comment on the lawsuit or on their hiring practices for Gulf of Mexico projects. A representative for Cal Dive did not return calls requesting comment. Buzbee says he believes defense attorneys will argue that the U.S. service companies did not know that the vessels were flying foreign flags. The case is expected to be heard in 2009.

Conditions like those described above are an invitation to conduct abuse. Additionally, the suit alleges that the foreign workers involved didn't have the proper visas.

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