PNG TRADE UNIONS, TEACHERS AND DOCTORS THREATEN NATIONWIDE STRIKE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 27, 1998 - Post Courier)---The Trade Union Congress and its affiliates are threatening a nationwide strike, beginning tomorrow in retaliation to the government's passing of the unchanged 1999 Budget this week.

At a lunch-hour meeting yesterday, disgruntled members vowed to take the fight up to the government.

They are angry about Prime Minister Bill Skate's claim in Parliament on Tuesday that Opposition MPs were collaborating with the unions.

"It is the Opposition that is going and lobbying with the unions to move against the government,'' Skate said in the House.

Yesterday, Trade Union Congress Vice General Secretary Clemence Kanau said the unions had a genuine case and Mr. Skate's remarks were "outrageous'' and lacked understanding.

"We will not give up,'' he said. "The fight has just started.''

TUC leaders and their affiliates resolved yesterday that executives of union groups would meet their members today to decide on a strike.

The outcome of those talks will be relayed to the TUC, who have established a strike committee to formulate possible action plans.

According to TUC executives John Paska and Mr. Kanau, there was no need to conduct a secret ballot before taking strike action, as the Office of the Industrial Registrar was effectively abolished in the Budget.

"The removal of the Office of Industrial Registrar means there is no union movement, no law to govern union activities and basically opened the floodgates for industrial action anytime,'' Mr. Paska said.

Mr. Kanau informed members that the TUC had terminated any form of discussion with the government and were running the show themselves.

Several union members raised concerns that employers had threatened disciplinary actions against staff for their involvement in union activities.

Mr. Kanau urged them to be committed to the movement's actions, even if it meant losing some of their pay as they were fighting for their families and their country.

The unions will meet at the Five Mile OTC oval at lunch-time tomorrow.

But Public Employees Association president Napoleon Liosi urged members yesterday to make the best they could from the budget.

"We can't stop the budget and couldn't have it amended , but we will make the best out of it,'' Liosi said.

Mr. Liosi said he had spoken to Public Service Minister Ian Ling-Stuckey and Personnel Management Secretary Bill Kua and they wanted to minimize the loss of jobs.

He urged that retrenched workers be paid a lump sum immediately as "they have families and need to survive''.

He said Mr. Ling-Stuckey had promised the four percent CPI increase would be paid next month to PEA members.

More than 10,000 teachers in the Highlands are threatening to strike over the budget. They are demanding that the budget be immediately amended and warned of a strike by all teachers in the region from the start of the new school year, on January 25.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

DOCTORS SUPPORT NATIONAL STRIKE IN PNG

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 27, 1998 - Radio Australia)---Doctors and other health workers in Papua New Guinea have voted in support of a nation wide strike today in protest against the Skate Government's budget for next year.

They're opposed to the government's planned abolition of the Institute of Medical Research.

They'll be scaling down operations in all major hospitals, using minimal staff to attend emergency cases only.

The Congress says the strike could be averted if Mr. Skate was prepared to amend the budget.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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