PNG Post-Courier
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 5, 2008) – The news that the
Government is reviving the Minimum Wages Board will be seen by many
thousands of workers as the best thing in years.

Wages for the workers on the lower rungs of society have been virtually frozen for the better part of a decade.

The last judgment or determination of a Minimum Wages Board was in the year 2000.

Since then, the bottom tier of workers have been stranded on the survival rations type of wage of about K75 [US$28.60] a fortnight.

It has to be said: That amount is not enough for survival in any urban centre of Papua New Guinea. It’s barely enough to scrape by on even if the worker is on a rural plantation.

People like house domestics, security guards, basic labourers and the like have had to depend on the goodwill and commonsense of individual employers.

And without any government regulations to be governed by, even the most generous employer is going to take the cost-effective way out.

So it is that we salute the National Executive Council’s decision to establish a Minimum Wages Board.

The principle is right. There should be an institution with government authority to determine a living wage for the least protected working people in our society.

The next thing we will look at is the makeup of the board, which sectors of society they represent and the stature and integrity of the individuals chosen to be members of the board.

If the selection process is done well, there will be a panel of people who can be the voices for major sectors of the population and who have experience in applicable fields. People who can balance the needs of the workers with the business need to be able to afford any increases. Economic responsibility will be a key term, seeing what the economy can stand in terms of rewarding workers without killing industry’s morale.

There will be some who decry the idea of any major increase in pay for a large sector of the workforce. Against that is the suggestion that workers with more money in hand can spend it, thereby pumping that money back into the economy.

It must be kept firmly in mind however that if we employ people for 37 or more hours a week, we cannot expect good results in output if we repress the workers’ wages and offer no hope of increased remuneration.

The Minimum Wages Board is a good concept, now the challenge is to get it up and running and making decisions that are fair to all.

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