The National, Friday November 8th, 2013
By CLEMENT KAUPA
RAMU Agri-Industries made a submission yesterday to the Minimum Wages Board in Lae for agriculture-based industries to be exempted from increasing workers’ pay as stipulated in the minimum wage bill.
General manager Jamie Graham attributed this to a lack of government support, poor transport and communication infrastructure and a very high cost of production in the agriculture sector.
The loss of a major domestic market prompted the producer of sugar, beef and palm oil to view dimly any attempt to lift the minimum wage from the K2.29 set in 2008.
“Ramu has lost an 8,000 tonne sugar supply to Coca-Cola, which is a significant loss to the company revenue,” Graham told the hearing.
RAIL had made a submission to the Labour Department following the 2008 determination and was granted an exception which allowed it to adjust to its present minimum wage rate of K2.
Graham claimed this was due to the fact that RAIL offered its employees packages other than wages, which included housing, electricity, water and other benefits such as medical.
Graham submitted that the industry was mechanised and the cost to production in the event of another increment “would be horrendous”.
He said: “An increase has consequences and the board needs to understand that.
“It is now about survival more than ever,” Graham said, adding that the primary industry had shrunk and stagnated in the past 25 years because of these factors – including consecutive unsupportive governments.