PNG UNIONS GIVE ULTIMATUM ON GOVERNMENT PAY CUTS

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By Lucy Kapi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 26, 2002 – The National)---The Combined Public Sector Unions (CPSU) has given the National Government seven days to respond to its demands regarding the government's new general order, especially relating to the freezing of salary/wages and other entitlements of public servants.

The public sector unions announced the ultimatum during a combined press conference yesterday attended by representatives of the 14 public sector union organizations and the national president of the Public Employees Association, Napoleon Liosi, who is also the chairman of the CPSU.

Mr. Liosi said the CPSU unanimously resolved to take this stand after a week-long meeting last week, during which they took serious note of the fact that the Circular Instructions Number 19 of 2002 and Special General Order Number 10 of September 9, 2002 have already been prematurely issued to enforce the cuts and freeze prior to the conclusion of mutual consultations.

"Such unilateral issuance of these instruments has deprived the workers of their earned entitlements and benefits," said Mr. Liosi.

He said the unions have noted that the two instruments have denied them their fundamental right to freely and collectively bargain for their work-related concerns.

"The CPSU, therefore, rejects these two instruments in their totality because these tantamount to denial of the principle of free collective bargaining," said Mr. Liosi, adding that a submission addressed to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare on their stand has been delivered to his office yesterday morning.

He said it is the collective view of the CPSU that their understanding with Public Service Minister Dr. Puka Temu and Department of Personnel Management Secretary Peter Tsiamalili, with regard to the government's proposed 10 percent wage cut, had been grossly misrepresented by both the Secretary and the Minister "by them broadening the scope to include other work-related benefits such as a freeze on leave fares, etc."

Mr. Liosi said the union is utterly disturbed to see that the DPM has chosen not to adhere to the list they provided to the department in their letter of August 21, 2002.

"Furthermore, DPM of its own volition and without concurrence of the PEA and the public sector unions has gone ahead to penalize all public sector workers when we gave the department a benchmark to implement the cost saving measures within the public sector for all positions equivalent to grade 16 and above," he said.

The unions expressed concern that the workers' salaries and wages are already lagging behind by three years in cost of living increase adjustments, within a background of continuing cost escalations.

The CPSU urged the government to urgently institute some measures to arrest the increasing cost of living and to put in place aggressive revenue collection measures through the Internal Revenue Commission (IRC), Motor Vehicles Insurance Trust (MVIT) and other revenue collection agencies.

The CPSU called on the Government to:

The CPSU unanimously resolved to reject the imposition of a salary/wage freeze, and freeze of other entitlements unless the government can freeze general cost increases.

It also resolved to give the government seven days from the date of its letter to respond.

Mr. Liosi said the CSPU is confident that the Prime Minister will intervene, adding that if nothing happens after seven days, they would think of another option.

By next week, he hopes to carry out a lunch hour awareness among public servants on the current situation and what the CPSU is doing for the workers.

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

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