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Ugandan oil and gas fields provide potential for union organizing

1 October, 2020IndustriALL affiliate UMMOGAWU in Uganda welcomes the agreement between French oil company Total and Uganda’s government for the construction of an over 1,440 km oil pipeline, expected to create up to 16,000 new jobs, and has declared its intention to organize the workers.

On 24 September, French oil company Total signed an agreement with the government of Uganda for the construction of the over 1,440 km East African Crude Oil Pipeline from Kabaale to Tanga in Tanzania.

With 13,000 jobs expected in the construction phase and 3,000 in the operational phase, the Uganda Mines Metal Oil and Gas and Allied Workers Union (UMMOGAWU) sees opportunities for the economic development of the country and an end to poverty. UMMOGAWU wants to recruit, and organize new members in the sector.

Vincent Ojiambo, UMMOGAWU general secretary, says:

“As the construction of the pipeline begins, our organizers will visit the sites to recruit more members to the union. We want better working conditions and living wages for the workers.”

The Lake Albert Basin holds some of the biggest oil and gas reserves in Sub Saharan Africa with potential to stimulate economic development and create thousands of decent jobs on the supply chain.
The oil and gas reserves are estimated to have over six billion barrels of oil, and 500 billion cubic feet of gas, and it is projected that the production of crude oil will start in 2023. Once production begins other petroleum based and electricity generating industries as well as providers of goods and services will be off shoots from the oil and gas sector. It is expected that these industries will provide services and manufactured goods for the domestic market as well as to neighbouring countries.

Diana Junquera Curiel, IndustriALL director for the energy industry, says:

“The growth of the oil and gas sector should be beneficial to Ugandan workers, and oil companies should use global best practices to ensure that they contribute to sustainable development in the country. IndustriALL has a GFA with TOTAL that will cover workers in Uganda and ensure that their labour rights are respected.”

Civil society organizations are calling upon the governments of Uganda and Tanzania to ensure the respect of the human rights of the 12,000 people and communities displaced by the pipeline route and who may have lost their land. Consideration should also be given to the environment.

The governments of Uganda and Tanzania have also signed an agreement to facilitate the construction. Other oil companies that are part of the joint venture in the oil fields are Tullow Oil and CNOCC. The companies have invested over three billion dollars in the oil and gas sector. There are also plans to build a refinery by the Albertine Graben Refinery Consortium.