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U.S. Navy seeks to hire 10,000 skilled workers

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 20, 2008) - Papua New Guinean carpenters, electricians and plumbers have the opportunity to be employed at the U.S. naval base in Guam and be paid US$15 dollars, about PGK40 an hour plus accommodation costs.

The request has come from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to countries in the region. But the Labour and Industrial Relations officers are allegedly not paying much attention to the request, which has angered PEA (Public Employees Association) president Michael Malabag.

Mr. Malabag yesterday called on the Foreign Affairs and Trade and Labour and Industrial Relations departments to confirm what employment opportunities were available under the existing trade agreements for PNG workers.

Malabag told a press conference yesterday that a Pacific Islands Forum meeting held in March/April this year had discussed specific issues on labor mobility opportunities within the South Pacific/Oceania region with Labour officers.

He said Guam employer representatives attended the conference and were seeking recruitment of 10,000 workers who will be employed at the US naval base there. The previous US naval base was on Okinawa, Japan, but relocated to Guam in the Pacific.

"I am particularly concerned that a request by the Forum secretariat to respective countries within the region for recruitment of semi-skilled and skilled workers to be employed at the Guam naval base has not been given much attention by PNG Labour officers who attended the conference," Malabag said.

"PNG was targeted a quota of 2000 workers. This includes workers who are electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc. plus semi-skilled general labor who will be paid $US15 per hour plus accommodation." Malabag has just returned from Fiji where he attended the Public Service International Forum meeting last week. He said he had met Dr. Roman Grynberg the director of economic governance program with the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat who had revealed the Pacific Islands labor mobility scheme to him.

"Dr. Grynberg said repeated follow-ups by the secretariat to PNG Labour officials has been very unsuccessful and this will result in PNG losing out on employment opportunities in Guam as part of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement known as PICTA.

"This is simply unacceptable and I call upon the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations to provide an explanation as they cannot take overseas ‘joyrides’ at public expense with no justification whatsoever. They wanted us to provide a list of names and we were unable to do that," he said.

Malabag said Grynberg also confirmed that there will be opportunities for PNG women to be employed in Canada as "Care Givers" meaning providing care for the older generations.

"Again the Labour Department must facilitate this opportunity for PNG female workers employment with the Secretariat."

He said worker mobilization had begun with 300 workers from Vanuatu employed in New Zealand farms, however, it was surprising that PNG had not tapped into the Australian and New Zealand labor markets.

Malabag said it was anticipated that labor mobility within the South Pacific would have no restrictions starting next year and PNG with its potential public service workforce might lose qualified doctors, nurses, teachers to the other Pacific countries when the opportunities arose. He said the Government should ensure attractive salary packages were offered to public servants.

The Post-Courier called Labour Secretary David Tibu for comment but a spokesman from his office said he was attending a meeting in Fiji.

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