SEASONAL WORKERS IN PNG PAID PITTANCE

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15 Toea (cents) per kilogram

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 23, 2008) – The coffee plantation sector in Papua New Guinea is cashing in on cheap labour by paying an average of 15 toea per kilogram for coffee cherry which is well below the minimum wage range, the Minimum Wages Board (MWB) heard yesterday.

The Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC) human resource officer, Cassy Kapenalu, said seasonal coffee cherry pickers were paid 10t to 20t per kilo, however, this varied from plantation to plantation.

"Since labour costs consistently account for such a large portion of employees, any changes in wages is likely to have significant impact on plantation cost of production," Mr Kapenalu said.

He said of the 75,000 people employed in the plantation sector, 60,000 were seasonal workers used during peak coffee flush periods between April and September.

The revelation prompted women’s representative on the MWB Scholla Kakas to observe that the majority of these seasonal workers were women and children.

"Children and women have no option because families need immediate cash. The plantations earn a lot of money from the cherries they picked. I believe what you offer is not worth the long hours spent on the fields and I urge CIC to review this practice," Ms Kakas said.

MWB chairman Pex Avosa urged CIC to ensure that labourers in the coffee industry, including seasonal workers, received wages consistent with the minimum wage.

He said the problem was highlighted recently during a field trip to a coffee plantation where MWB members witnessed deteriorating living conditions of plantation labourers.

The National

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