BANK SOUTH PACIFIC STRIKERS RETURN TO WORK

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Employees reach agreement with PNG’s biggest bank

By Harlyne Joku PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Aug. 31, 2010) - The Bank South Pacific workers will return to work today.

A jubilant BSP crowd left the PNG Trade Union Congress headquarters late yesterday after a briefing by union executives that the BSP management and their union had reached a compromise and signed an agreement.

BSP banking services are expected to return to normal as striking BSP union members agreed to return to work today.

Their protest was hailed as a victory by the TUC president Michael Malabag and general secretary John Paska.

Mr. Malabag commended the workers saying that they had shown a true sign of solidarity while Mr. Paska said he was proud that the union had stayed united and achieved what they had fought for.

He said this would not be the first or the last strike for the union movement in PNG which would continue to fight for better working conditions and welfare of its workers.

Throughout yesterday morning, before the signing of the deal, the workers continued their strike action at the PNGTUC headquarters.

Members of the public struggled in queues at major bank branches in Port Moresby to be served by a skeleton staff. The queues were long, reaching to the bank gates.

Bankers union president Anton Sekum said that union executives and the management held a closed door meeting to reach a compromise.

At 3pm, general secretary Vera Raga returned for another meeting with the BSP management led by chief executive officer Ian Clyne which resulted in the signing of the agreement.

A joint statement was released saying the Bank South Pacific and the Papua New Guinea Banks and Financial Institutions Workers Union were happy to sign the agreement.

Under the chairmanship of the Department of Labour, BSP and the union have continued to progress the industrial conciliation process in an "amicable and interactive’’ environment. "The MOU brings to resolution eight of the nine outstanding ‘parked items’ arising out the 2007 Consolidated Industrial Agreement. The only remaining issue, housing allowance, will be determined through the Industrial Arbitration Tribunal process. As a sign of good faith, BSP has offered a further 10 percent increase to the housing allowance for all grades 3 to 8 staff.

They jointly pledged to restore full customer service to all branches.

BSP and the union also called on BSP staff to respect the terms of the agreement and resume duties.

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