PNG BANK WORKERS TO GO ON STRIKE

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ANZ employees demand 50 percent raise

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 2, 2008) – ANZ Bank clients may have to look for cash elsewhere today as more than 300 bank workers go on strike.

All bank branches are expected to close when the strike starts today, but Automated Teller Machines (ATM) and Electronic Funds Transfer Point of Sale (EFTPOS) transactions are expected to continue, at least in the short-term, because the ANZ is linked to the Bank South Pacific system.

Some clients were worried, however, that the ATM and EFTPOS avenues to get money may not last long, if ANZ cannot refill the cash-handling ATMs.

Companies which usually deposit their takings for the weekend may have to make other arrangements. Almost 312 of the 362 ANZ staff nationwide are members of the union.

However, yesterday the ANZ management sent out circulars to its employees notifying them that the strike action was "illegal" and those who defy this warning can be sacked.

It also said if the strike is prolonged, "We have several PNG staff working offshore that could return if required".

The PNG Bankers and Financial Workers Union confirmed to the Post-Courier in a three-page statement that the strike will officially start today and run for an indefinite period until ANZ management meets the aggrieved workers outstanding revised log of claims.

"The ANZ branch of the PNG Banks and Financial Institutions Workers Union has resolved to withdraw labour indefinitely commencing tomorrow – Friday the 30th of May 2008. The strike action will be nationwide," union general secretary Vera Raga said.

The workers want a 50 per cent increase for wages and salaries, 60 per cent increase in housing allowances and a 100 per cent increase in severance payments.

A country-wide secret ballot, authorised by the Industrial Registrar, was conducted last Tuesday and 294 of the 303 voted for an industrial action, including a strike.

The dispute between the members, represented by the union, and the bank’s management dates back to 2006. The union says it should have been resolved by then.

But a copy of ANZ managing director Garry Tunstall’s circular to his staff and obtained by the newspaper dismissed Mr Raga’s claims.

He warned the staff that they could be sacked or face disciplinary actions if they go on a strike, something the union says legal actions would be taken against if it happens.

"They will be liable to disciplinary action under the award, which may include dismissal. They will not be entitled to be paid for any time while on strike," Mr Tunstall stated.

He added that the bank and the union were party to the industrial agreement (award) and although the award had expired both parties had agreed to continue by the terms pending the negotiations of a new award or its determination by the Industrial Arbitration Tribunal.

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

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