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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 3, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Workers throughout Papua New Guinea have received an early Christmas present courtesy of the Minimum Wages Board when it raised the national minimum wage.

The board, when handing down the 2000 National Minimum Wage determination that will apply over the next three years, announced that it had been increased from K 22.96 (US$ 7.92) a week as per the 1992 determination to K 62.40 (US$ 21.53) a week.

Board chairwoman Beverly Doiwa said the rate would be increased by K 6 (US$ 2.07) a week in each of the second and third years of the determination respectively.

The new determination will apply across the board regardless of age and location, and will become effective upon registration and gazetting.

"The national minimum wage reflects minimum family needs, sufficient to support a worker with at least four dependents (a spouse and three children)," Ms. Doiwa said.

"The national minimum wage must be able to buy the basic necessities to sustain life."

She said nearly all the submissions received expressed the common view that the new national minimum wage must restore the real value of the current national minimum wage level, K 22.96 (US$ 7.92) a week, to the 1992 level.

"The 2000 Minimum Wages Board’s decision to increase the national minimum wage to K 60.40 (US$ 21.53) per week simply expressed the value of K 22.96 (US$ 7.92) of 1992 in today’s terms, measured against the US dollar," Ms. Doiwa said.

"The increase of K 6 (US$ 2.07) in the second and third year is also intended to assist maintain the value and purchasing power of the minimum wage."

She said her board’s task was complex and difficult because of eight years of void since the last board determination and it was their view that the 1992 determination "failed to build in a wage adjustment that perhaps could have provided some relief for minimum wage earners."

"There have been some critics who painted a picture of doom and gloom but yet had no interest to making a case to the board," she said.

"The board takes a firm stand on those critics who claim to know all and think they have answers for problems of the Papua New Guinea economy and society about the board’s decision."

She said the board was mindful that Papua New Guinea had been through difficult and testing times in the 1990s, including the Bougainville crisis, the Aitape disaster, the Sandline crisis and the drought. Ms. Doiwa said all these unforeseen shocks had seriously affected all sections of the Papua New Guinea economy and society, "inflicting enormous suffering and hardship on the majority of the population."

The board abolished the national youth wage, claiming it had not served its original purpose or achieved its objectives. Ms. Doiwa said evidence tendered to the board showed that unemployment among youths was rising and the current lower rate had had an opposite effect. She said most employers in the rural sector provided basic housing and health care for their employees.

The board recognized that these were non-labor costs that employers were paying over and above the wages.

Trade union officials immediately welcomed the determination by the wages board.

The government said it would announce its position next week.

Papua New Guinea Trade Union Congress general secretary John Paska said the determination was justice for the workers.

Mr. Paska said the union accepted the board decision in its entirety. "It’s a decision for justice, it’s a decision for the nation, it’s a decision for families and struggling people on the streets," he said. "We have all worked hard for the culmination of years to get to this occasion.

"Justice has arrived, justice is here, and justice must be propelled."

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

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