By JASON GIMA WURI
THE Labour Department must ensure that employers comply with the minimum wage determination (MWD), PNG Trade Union Congress general-secretary John Paska said.
He said widespread complaints from workers showed that many companies were not complying with the minimum wages rates.
“This is a clear breach of the new MWD of 2008 which requires employers to pay minimum wage at the rate of K2.29 per hour.
“Many employers have tried to justify their non-payment of the new rates by arguing that their submissions for exemption from payments of the new rates are before the department.
“As a member of both committees, I am not aware of any such application which can only mean that companies are deliberately disregarding the MWD’s new rates.
“This is utter nonsense and is deliberately designed to mislead workers and escape legal responsibility,” Mr Paska said.
“Companies can’t say their application is before the committees and, therefore, cannot pay the new rate.
“Companies who have yet to pay their employees the new rate must backdate payment to Jan 21.”
PNG Employers Federation executive director Florence Willie said: “As far as we are concerned, under the MWD No 1 of 2008, employers are allowed to apply for exemption to pay the national minimum wage.”
The application can be based on the following:
* Incapacity to pay; and
* Exemption application to pay partial wages in the agriculture sector.
“When the MWD came into force last April 16, employers would apply for these exemptions after eight weeks.
“Employers who had applied did not receive any response as the task to vet these two different applications was vested under the Labour Department.
“Under the exemption applications, those companies who applied for exemption under the incapacity to pay had to send their applications to the Labour secretary, who chairs the committee to vet, screen the applications and grant or reject the applications,” Ms Willie said.
She said employers in the agriculture sector had to send in their applications to the National Tripartite Consultative Council (NTCC) director who was chair of this committee to carry out the same process.
“Since April, these committees were not formed and the NTCC convened a special meeting on Nov 6 to address this issue.
“A supplementary agreement was signed by all stakeholders, employers, workers and the Government to allow the committee to be set up, allow employers time to file their applications.
“The supplementary agreement also stipulated that those employers who file their applications prior to Nov 6 and those companies who intend to file on or by Jan 2, when the national minimum wage would be at K2.29 per hour can suspend paying the new rate pending the outcome of their exemption application from Labour.
“Therefore, it follows those companies who had applied for exemption in the agriculture sector or exemption on the basis of incapacity to pay, will pay the employees a lesser rate, not K2.29 per hour while waiting for their response.
“As for all other companies who had not applied for exemption, as at Jan 21, they should be paying the new rate.
“For the record, many members of the federation , who are good corporate citizens are paying the minimum rate. In many instances, they are paying well over and above the national minimum wage rate,” Ms Willie said.