Frabelle workers walk off job

National, Normal

MORE than 500 workers of fish cannery Frabelle (PNG) Limited walked off their jobs yesterday morning.
They left the SpeyBank Street, Milfordhaven, factory in Lae in one large group, over complaints of transport, lunch, uniforms and safety wear fees.
The workers said both skilled and unskilled workers were paid K2.29 across the board.
Despite the national minimum wages board (NMWB) rate, there is no margin rate between the unskilled and the skilled workers, spokesman of their interim union Gabriel Garame said.
The workers who come from Munum and Yalu villages, along the Highlands Highway, are charged K4.10  as transport fees daily, while those commuting from Miles, Bumayong, are charged K1.60.
“The management imposes an identification card system to verify commuters before and after hoping on to the vehicle. A fee of K5 is charged, or three days without pay, if one has no ID,” employees said.
For meals at the work-place, “dry scones were provided for lunch costing K1”.
“Within the company a man, without a certification from Investment Promotion Authority, sells half scallop and sausages for K1, broccoli at K1 and bananas for K0.50,” Mr Garame said.
He said two pairs of uniforms cost K6 while a pair of safety gum boots costs K30.
He said there were no face masks and safety clothes for workers in the boiler section.
At Christmas, each worker receives two packets of rice, three packets of noodles and three tins of Isabella fish.
Frabelle (PNG) Ltd operates fish canning for the local and export markets.
Workers said it also manufactured frozen loins, fish meal and deals in scrap metals.
“The deductions on various things exceed what they pay us fortnightly,” workers said.
 “It has been an on going issue,” Mr Garame said.
The workers vented their frustration to the provincial labour and industrial relations division, Morobe Provincial Fisheries Management Authority and health and safety authorities of the Lae City Council. They said the government agencies were negligent.
“They are depriving and denying us of proper welfare at the work place. They benefit from our commitment, effort and marine resources using us as cheap labour,” he said.
Unionist Tom Vevo said the issue was the same in other fish canning companies.
He said that at RD Tuna, employees received a K0.15 increase, despite the K2.29 approved rate.
He said the K2.29 rate was for the unskilled workers.
“The company has to set its margin and add its portion on top the pay for those skilled nationals.
“Failure by the provincial labour division to implement its roles and responsibilities effectively, leads to unnecessary protests without employees following proper procedures.
“Workers were the foundation of industry which generates income for the Government. Therefore responsible authorities have to intervene and solve such issues.
“They are human beings and have to afford to eat and sleep, and be protected with medical and insurance cover for their safety,” he said.
Frabelle management refused to comment.