PNG APPROVES $1.18 HOURLY MINIMUM WAGE

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16-year battle raises pay from 24 cents an hour

By Isaac Nicholas PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 28, 2010) - Workers nationwide are looking forward to the new wage increase approved by the National Minimum Wages Board.

The board approved the new hourly rate of PGK2.29 [US$1.18] (PGK201.52 [US$103.64] a fortnight [two weeks]) effective January 21 that is to be reflected in this month’s pay.

The previous minimum wage was PGK22 [US$11.31] a week or PGK44 [US$22.63] a fortnight.

PNG Trade Union general secretary, John Paska, said it had been a hard-fought battle over the last 16 years that will see PGK1 billion remaining in the country by this Minimum Wage determination.

Mr. Paska thanked Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare who had come good in authorising the establishment of the board.

He was, however, critical of former prime ministers Sir Mekere Morauta and Sir Julius Chan, describing their policies as "devastating to workers".

He said the battle started in 1992 when the minimum wage of PGK120 a fortnight was reduced to PGK44.

He said the late Prime Minister Sir William Skate approved the board in 2000 with the determination to increase the minimum wage to PGK120 a fortnight.

"That was not realized after the new government came into power, reducing the wage to PGK22 a week or PGK44 a fortnight," he said.

Paska said security workers who had some kind of skills were paid under the minimum wage level.

"About 90 per cent of security workers are paid below the current new minimum wage," he added.

Paska said the wage increase was good for the economy as most businesses were foreign-owned and profits were siphoned off overseas.

"The increase in minimum wages will ensure some of that money remains in the country," he said.

He said there were also some unprecedented features that included review of the wages after 12 months and exemption provisions, especially to loss-making companies and agriculture where commodity prices were volatile.

Paska said although there was no accurate data on the total number of workers in the country, the PNGTUC estimated that the country had 350,000 workers, with 50 percent of them unskilled who will benefit from the increase.

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