UTILITY WORKERS WRONG TO HOLD PNG HOSTAGE

Editorial

PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Nov. 16 ) – Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Papua New Guineans sighed deeply with relief mixed with anger when the lights went on again late yesterday.

Relief certainly for regaining the use of all those electricity-generated services that they pay good money for.

Anger as they vent their emotions at having to go without those services for nearly 48 hours.

To have our major urban centres held to ransom over an in-house industrial dispute is a shame for our system of government and bureaucracy.

Arguments over a boss’s actions and changes to employment terms can and should be dealt with in a more civilised fashion than took place this week.

It would be bad enough if this happened in a transport company or a retail trading store.

But to see it happen with the provision of services in what is commonly accepted as an "essential service’’, vital to the running of a modern nation, is deplorable.

The Government should now devote some serious thinking to the state of conduct of affairs within PNG Power and the legislation that governs it.

There are more than enough natural and machine-made obstacles to providing a power service in Papua New Guinea, things like storms that bring trees crashing onto power lines, equipment mishaps that could not be seen beforehand and the like without an industrial dispute being the cause.

Both sides in the dispute have a lot to ponder over, besides getting the best deal in the row.

In other countries, a strike in the power industry, especially a monopoly one, would be forbidden and punishable by law. This sorry episode has also resulted in the PNG Chamber of Commerce and Industry thinking out aloud about the idea of competition.

That’s a big question. Who in private enterprise would want to take on the difficulties of creating their own infrastructure in our wild terrain, or even sharing the ageing, breakdown-prone PNG Power system?

But it has happened in other countries. Maybe it would the way to go. Either that or the Government must be persuaded to pump in much more capital to let PNG Power do more dramatic overhauls much more quickly.

Either way, the consumers deserve better . . . both the big business side of PNG, who pay big money and are often asked to run their own generators to help out the monopoly, and also the average householder who cannot afford a generator.

Service and value for money are the words they are all talking about.

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