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Minister Peter O’Neill: ‘This is news to me.’

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 4, 2008) – Public Service Minister Peter O’Neill has denied a newspaper report that he made a submission for the increase of minimum wages, and the National Executive Council approved it last week in Manus.

"I never put in a submission and this is news to me. I have no knowledge of the submission," Mr O’Neill said of the Post-Courier report yesterday.

He said the Labour and Industrial Relations Minister would be the appropriate person to make such a submission.

[PIR editor’s note: according to the Post-Courier report, "While he could not confirm by how much the minimum wage rate is set to increase, he indicated that the Government may soon make an announcement. The (Peter O’Neill) submission was approved ‘a few weeks ago.’"]

PNG Trade Union Congress general secretary John Paska also described the report as "grossly misleading" and giving the impression that the Government can increase minimum wages just like that.

He said the Minimum Wages Board recommends the minimum wage and, at present, there is no board in place. This body is governed under the Industrial Relations Act.

He said the wages board can be established by Government which consists of representatives from employers, employees, government and civil society.

He said once established, their job was to receive submissions and many factors come into consideration in arriving at a decision on wage structure.

Mr Paska said the last board was established in 2000 when it decided to increase the wages from K45 [US$18.49] to K120 [US$46.24] which was rejected by the Mekere government.

He said after the refusal, the PNGTUC and Employers Federation went on a separate agreement to grant a K74 increase.

He said the National Tripartite Consultative Council in its deliberations had recently asked the Labour Department to draft a submission for the creation of the Minimum Wages Board.

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