PAPUA NEW GUINEA NURSES READY TO STRIKE

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By Lucy Kapi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Jan. 20, 2000 – The National)---A nationwide strike by nursing sisters, who are members of the Papua New Guinea Nurses Association, is imminent after the Industrial Registrar permitted the nurses to hold a secret ballot to decide on their next course of action.

The Industrial Registrar has agreed that the nurses -- who are pushing for improved wages and working conditions -- can resort to industrial action to fight for their rights, according to PNGNA president Susan Haroe.

Ms. Haroe told a press conference in Port Moresby yesterday that the Industrial Registrar had certified that the Nurses Association has met all the requirements under the Industrial Relations Act in order to undertake the planned industrial action.

The PNGNA had demanded from the Government last year, through the departments of Personnel Management and Health, a review of the 1987 Nurses Agreement. On top of this, they also inquired about a log of claims for improved working conditions, which was lodged in June 1998.

The 1987 agreement relates to shift loading, over-time and uniform allowances while the log of claims was for, among others, risk and hardship allowances.

Ms. Haroe said the PNGNA has decided to take further action after registering this dispute with the Industrial Registrar's office in December last year, following a breakdown in negotiations and continued delaying tactics by the Government.

Ms. Haroe said that the Department of Personnel Management has asked for a meeting with the nurses today, but this would not stop them from going ahead with their industrial action.

She said letters will be sent out to the 4,300-plus members of the association this week informing them of the Industrial Registrar's response, so that a secret ballot can be conducted early next week to determine whether or not to go on strike.

"Our stand is clear. The association would carry out the nationwide action until a positive outcome is reached and all our claims are fully addressed," she said.

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

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