UNION THREATENS TO PULL PLUG ON PNG POWER SYSTEM

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 3) – The Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby, and most major urban centres nationwide could be hit by power blackouts this week, angry union officials say.

The Government’s confirmation of Australian Patrick Mara as the new PNG Power chief executive officer has angered the PNG Energy Workers Association (PNGEWA).

The union’s secretary-general, Philip Kaira, told the Post-Courier on Friday: "All business houses must get back-up generators; its cheaper to get back-up generators than rely on PNG Power. I rang the Department of Labour and Employment (DLE) Secretary this morning (Friday), (and told him) ‘the buck stops with you, if you release the work permit, all hell breaks loose’."

PNG Power acting chief executive officer Lawrence Solomon has indicated he would not hesitate to get a court order to stop workers from pulling the plug on electricity services.

"I told them that they are not to use power supply; they are not to disrupt the power supply service. They know that. If they did that then they have a very serious problem and we’ve said to them that we will take out a court order," Mr Solomon said.

But Mr Kaira said a court order would not stop them and they would "make life very uncomfortable for the new CEO."

The continued localisation of the CEO position was one of four resolutions to which the PNGEWA wants the PNG Power management and the Government to respond.

They are also demanding PNG Power board chairman and Employers Federation president John Jeffrey be sacked; the services of consultancy firm Korda Menta be terminated; and the management immediately resolve disputed in-house industrial issues.

The PNGEWA and the union failed to compromise in a compulsory meeting in Port Moresby on Thursday chaired by the Labour Department secretary’s delegate Francis Hau.

"We were disappointed after yesterday’s (Thursday’s) conference, we are now seriously looking at strike action," Mr Kaira said.

Mr Solomon, who will return to his deputy CEO position on Mr Mara’s arrival, said the union’s demands relating to Mr Jeffrey, Korda Menta and the CEO position were beyond the management’s authority.

October 4, 2005

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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