The National, Tuesday October 8th, 2013
By PETER ESOP WARI
EIGHT members of the Minimum Wages Board from Port Moresby are in the Southern Highlands to gauge whether the hourly rate of K2.29 set recently by the government will benefit the majority of Papua New Guineans.
Board members and other stakeholders from the government started their two-day workshop yesterday at Kiburu Lodge.
Southern Highlands acting administrator Ambe Keleli said the recent announcement by the government to increase the rate would be good news for many people, but it would affect some business houses and government institutions.
The first two institutions to present their submissions were the Education Department and the local level government.
Their problem was that they could not generate enough income to pay their workers.
Mendi High School principal Kingsley Sap said if the rate was made effective by the national government, then the government should make an attempt to subsidise some money to help pay casual workers.
“I employ 17 labourers and pay them between K130-K180 a fortnight.
“With the increase in the cost of goods and services, I cannot do much as under the free education policy, the government only subsidises fees for certain materials and not for labourers,” Sap said.
He said many parents had refused to pay project fees, saying the government was paying for everything and only a minority group had paid, which enabled the government to meet the labourers wages.
Sap said if the rate was made effective, it would be a real setback for education institutions.
Deputy Mendi Town manager Issac Telue said not every government and private institution ran smoothly and all had their problems.
Telue said business houses in Mendi town were locally owned and many refused to pay land rates, garbage and other fees.
“When the government does not release the quarterly funds on time, rubbish piles up and workers stay without getting paid for months,” he said.
“We only depend on the national government for the local level government grants which are sent quarterly to pay the casual workers, and sometimes when the grants do not reach the local level government on time, the workers do not get paid,” he said.
Telue said there were 24 workers paid at K2.29 an hour and old workers at K3.
“If the government sets the hourly rate at K2.29, then we would not argue over that as we have our own plans to meet the government’s decision but the government must release the funds on time so that the workers receive their wages,” he said.
Beverley Doiwa, chairwoman and member of Minimum Wages Board, said the submissions made were interesting and would be discussed and handed to the government.
Doiwa said they would move around the provinces and collect information and submissions and whatever was said would be noted and discussed later.
Doiwa said the team would go to Western Highlands, Eastern Highlands and then Mamose.