By BOSORINA ROBBY
THE 1,500 Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) workers who went on strike on April 1 have agreed to return to work following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) last Friday.
The agreement was signed between OTML, the Government and the Mining and Allied Workers Union.
The MoU commits all parties to resolve the employees’ grievances by Aug 1. Any unsolved matters will be referred to an independent arbitrator for judgment.
OTML managing director Alan Breen, in a short speech, told workers: “I hear you, respect you and will commit to the MoU.
“It is regretful that the strike happened and we must all make every effort to learn from this. I thank all for the peaceful way they conducted the strike
“I also commend and thank the State team for its mediation work. A safe return to work must now be our priority.”
He urged all involved to immediately turn their attention to the mediation process.
OTML expects to recover lost production of about K100 million at their Western province mine during the remainder of the year.
The strike occurred when mine and mill operators argued over the unfair distribution of the shares in success scheme (SISS) and other issues.
In response, OTML management quoted the strict trust rules that any changes to the distribution would require the majority approval of the disaffected employees, which OTML cannot arbitrarily or legally change.
SISS funds are a special fund set up to provide an incentive to retain and attract employees to the mine, which is administered by an independent trustee with strict rules and guidelines regarding distribution.
The strike lasted 16 days despite numerous appeals for workers to voluntarily return to work and the serving of a court order by the management.
The last option was the issuing of termination notices which might be disregarded due to the MoU.
PNG Trade Union Congress general secretary John Paska said the management paid US$6,180 (K17,433) in 2007, US$7,023 (K19,811) in 2008 and US$5,952 (K16,789) last year to Part A employees while Part B employees, which presumably included expatriates and senior management, received US$50,427 (K142,248) in 2007, US$53,401 (K150,637) in 2008 and US$40,459 (K114,129) last year.
“When converted, last year’s figures would be about K121,377 for Part B employees and K17,856 for Part A.
“This exposes a difference of K104,000, or 104% disparity gap.
“Even though they accepted that, there will always be a disparity gap,” Mr Paska said.