The National, Thursday May 21st, 2015
AMONG the new board members of PNG Power Ltd sworn in on Tuesday was trade union leader John Paska, whose role would require him to be something of an arbiter between the company board, management and staff at times.
PNG Power, as a government statutory body then and now gradually evolving into a fully-fledged commercial entity, is no stranger to industrial issues and Paska is fully cognizant of this.
Perhaps, more than the rest of the board members, his would be a dual role and this is something he is better placed now as opposed to when he only was a trade unionist advocating for his union members. As a board member of the company the PNG Trade Union Congress general secretary’s role could be seen to be one of juggling responsibilities on the board.
Paska said at the time of the swearing in ceremony: “I can’t comment in detail about it as I have to inform myself about the entire anatomy of the organisation and I’ll be probably in a better position.”
There are outstanding industrial relations matters at the company in which Paska would be expected to take a leading role to resolve with help from the new board and management.
It is hoped that his involvement in the board would have make the relations between the company management and the staff become less confrontational and more understanding and resolve niggling issues at the company.
And to do that in complete fairness, he will, like he said, “inform myself about the entire anatomy of the organisation”.
“Much of my involvement from the outside has been in relation to the industrial relations issues. Obviously that will come up, it won’t be easy. You’re putting on two hats. You swear your oath of loyalty and allegiance but there’s a big picture out there; the challenge is how do we work together.”
And this is precisely where Paska’s many years of unionism and his tact and diplomacy in speaking for his memberships yet holding out as a figure of consensus and compromise will come to the fore.
Paska further noted that: “No organisation can go without its staff and human resources so it’s about navigating the contours of every issue to make it a happen together so we get the desired outcomes.”
It would have been easy if Paska and his other colleagues of the PNGPL board have taken on the leadership of a thriving and profitable entity whose main agenda would be diversification or reinvesting in newer ventures and other activities.
That is not to be. However, we note that the board compromises people of diverse expertise and management acumen, is taking on a company that is barely keeping its head above water and that with external assistance occasionally to prop it up.
The company’s executive director is New Zealander John Mangos, who was had been behind the remarkable expansion and coverage of PNG’s largest mobile network company, Digicel.
“I’ve taken it from when it was recently launched to now covering 90-odd per cent of the country with Internet, phone, SMS and TV services.
“That was my history in PNG and I’m looking forward to bringing a lot of those experiences across to PNG Power,” Mangos said at the swearing in ceremony.
Chairman Larry Andagali and female electrical engineer Finkewe Zurenuoc were the only two retained from the old board. New faces include Paska and Mangos, plus new Public Independent Public Business Corporation managing director Garry Hersey, Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer David Conn, engineer Moses Gurra. Public Enterprises and State Investments Department Secretary Dr Clement Waine was appointed deputy chairman.
The board, management and staff of the power supplier would be looking on Paska to, at times, be the arbiter and mediator when things get a little sensitive and heated up like in the case of the outstanding log of claims by staff regarding salary increments and sale of the company itself.
The choice of people to head the company, which has borne the brunt of public outcry over inefficient electricity provision around the country, cannot be any better.
We trust that with the new board’s combined years of expertise and management ability, they bring to PNG Power the necessary leadership impetus to transform the company.