PNG Post-Courier PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 17, 2011) - National doctors in Papua New Guinea intend to go on strike over unpaid monies they were promised by their employer – the Government of Papua New Guinea.

The 500 or so members of the National Doctors Association have decided to walk off their jobs on the 25th of this month, exactly seven days from today. And when they do, all hospitals throughout the country are expected to run into serious trouble as there will be no one around to provide specialist treatment to patients – those that are already admitted and those that will be seeking medical attention.

The doctors are going on strike because they are frustrated that the Government had failed to honor a commitment it has made three years ago, to sign the Memorandum of Agreement on the new terms and conditions of employment for them.

The nurses in hospital also have outstanding issues over the terms and conditions of their employment with the Government. We are informed that there are many nurses who were not paid the promised awards and they are waiting.

Every day in the newspapers, Papua New Guineans read about the plight of the teachers. They are calling on the Government, through the Teaching Service Commission, to look into their wages and other conditions of their employment. Recently, teachers in Mt Hagen presented a petition to the National Education Board, demanding better pay, housing allowance and other benefits.

Teachers work in some of the most remote areas of the country, where they build and mould the young people of this country to become better citizens; and in many cases, the teachers are the face of the Government in the rural communities they work in.

At the University of Papua New Guinea, the National Academic Staff Association are upset that their employer, the university administration, has not remitted their superannuation contributions to their appropriate superfunds. For most of them, these superfund contributions represent a major part of their savings to draw from when they retire or resign from their current jobs.

The doctors, teachers, nurses and academics are part of the entire Government workforce in this country. Like them, all of the public servants are expecting better pay and conditions from their employer at this time, given the high cost of goods and services in the country.

For many public servants, their fortnightly salaries are the only source of income they have. With this money, they buy food, pay their bills, meet obligations and if they are lucky, put some money away for a rainy day.

These workers also contribute a substantial amount of their income into the consolidated revenue of the Government through the income tax they pay every fortnight.

We sympathize with their struggle and agree that public servants should be taken care of properly by the Government because they all perform very important jobs in this country.

But do they deserve it? Today, we are told that the Government has a wage bill of over PGK24 million [US$9 million] every fortnight, a very huge cost in anyone’s language but is PNG getting value for that money?

There are many people out there who will say that public servants do not deserve any more increases in their salaries because they are not committed to their work. We know that there are some good public servants but generally, the public opinion is that public servants have a very poor work attitude and they are lazy and corrupt.

On the other hand, the private sector has a very good system in place when it comes to awarding pay increases and other benefits to its workers. It is common practice that companies up the pay for workers on merit only and as a result, this encourages productivity and competitiveness among workers.

We suggest that the Government comes up with the same award system and not give blanket salary increases and awards to public servants. That will promote attitude change in the public servants.


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