Women at the helm

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday 18th November 2011

THE most powerful intellectual industrial organisation in Papua New Guinea, UPNG’s the National Academic Staffing Association/Union (NASA/NAU), has recently changed its status from a male dominated executive to a strictly female one. All its office bearers from the president down are women.
Industrial Registrar, Mrs Helen Saleu, herself a product of UPNG, described this as historic when informing the PNG Trade Union Congress executive that “UPNG NASA has an all round female executive as an industrial organisation.”
The new executive was voted in on Oct 10.
At a special handover function on Oct 14 organised by the new executive at UPNG she pointed out that “NASA as an industrial organisation has achieved some of the landmark decisions (in the country)” and encouraged the new executive to continue that leadership role “in bringing about positive changes which benefit many other institutions in the country such as the National Research Institute, the University of Technology and others”.
The new executive are president, Ms Elaina Butuna (from Milne Bay, a lecturer in the School of Natural and Physical Sciences); vice-president, Dr. Anne Waiko (from Milne Bay, a senior lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences); treasurer, Ms Henrietta Simon (from West New Britain, a lecturer in the School of Natural and Physical Sciences; and secretary, Ms Lois Stanley (from Manus, a lecturer in the School of Law).
Meanwhile, the male membership population of NASA welcomed the election of the new executive and rendered support for them through former president Dr Peter Petsul who the current president acknowledged as one “who had successfully negotiated the [almost single line looking] salary package for the 2009-2011 term which expires at the end of this year.”
For over three decades NASA has always been at the forefront of all industrial battles and negotiations, making history along the way which not many of us may care to acknowledge. But it is true of our claim that it is indeed one of the most powerful industrial organisations in the country.
From the late 1970s NASA has initiated and caused changes to take effect which in turn not only affected the academia but also the public service, indeed the entire work force, throughout PNG.
Thanks to NASA virtually all the departments, government or private, enjoy the benefits of domestic market allowances, risk allowances, compassionate and maternal leave benefits – all in line with the academic industrial union’s persistent call for a single line salary for all, irrespective of race, creed, class or gender.
While we can say that some of NASA’s battles have been fought and won we can still concede that there is a lot out there that remains challenging. NASA is well aware of that. With that in mind storyboard decided to give the president a few posers and the response received was invaluable.
On the question of the single line salary Butuna said: “NASA has been a pioneer and advocate for a single line salary based on equal work for equal pay principles at the University of Papua New Guinea. This in our view has been partially achieved in the 2009-2011 MOA where national academics can apply for international market allowance (IMA) based on academic and professional merits.”
On the question of accountability and transparency at all levels of UPNG’s performances: “UPNG is a public institution and therefore must be accountable to the people of PNG. This is a public university; both management and academics must be accountable to the public in the delivery of their services. All public funds must be accounted for under the Public and Finance Act.”
On the quality of staffing: “The quality of academic staffing and retention of staffing is essential, based on the attractiveness of the salary remuneration packages and conditions offered by the University at competitive labour market. I do not think remuneration packages are attractive enough to lure international professionals to be competitive with the nationals on equal terms. If you convert the kina to US or Australian dollars international professors will be worse off at UPNG than in US or Australian universities.”
Other issues at heart affecting NASA? “NASA needs assessment survey or household and income survey, improvement in staff accommodation, the housing scheme of the national staff that needs to be finalised, development of forward looking corporate plans, establishment of a resource centre, creation of a data base for NASA members and the spearheading of an ‘Alliance of Academic Council/forum of PNG’ as a non government body that should encourage participation from other academic associations from various universities in the country; also increase of fund raising efforts for mentor activities at UPNG and support the administration in the development initiatives to provide quality education at UPNG. The alliance should meet annually to exchange ideas that affect learning at respective universities.”
At this point Butuna took a slight pause to place an emphasis on NASA’s involvement at both community and national levels. She pointed out that whoever the stakeholders were in carrying out the projects of the Law building and the Science IV building, should consider 2013 as the deadline for the two to be completed. And she continued: “On the national front NASA thanks the governor of NCD for his leadership and support for the tabling of the Equality and Participation Bill now before the Parliament. The executive congratulates the government of the day for taking a bold step in approving the bill which countries like the US and Australia took over some 100 years to support in recognition of women. Actually, without the aggressive support of the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, the Australian government and the UN support for this bill would not have been possible in a traditionally male dominated society. NASA appeals to our good 109 members of Parliament to pass the bill for the sake of your children and posterity. Together we can build a strong vibrant society and together we can achieve the goals of Vision 2050.”
And now for storyboard’s final question, what would the president, as someone from Milne Bay, have to offer by way of advice and words of encouragement to the people of that province?
“I am proud to be from Milne Bay and to join the list of Milne Bay pioneers in various fields of achievement, such as Dinah Frank and her book, Under the Mango Tree, Dame Josephine Abijah, the first female parliamentarian and her book, A Thousand Coloured Dreams, Alice Wedega being the first nominated indigenous member of the LCG and her book, Listen My Country, and many others. Being the first female president of the National Academic Staff Association of UPNG is a special honour and privilege especially leading an all round female NASA executive of an industrial organisation. This feels extra special yet it is a daunting task but I am confident with my team to meet all challenges as they themselves are intellectuals and respected citizens in their own right. NASA in my view has taken on a new frontier in its leadership role showing the nation that indeed when it comes to brain power both men and women are on equal footing. All our male NASA colleagues were pleasantly surprised and delighted to see us take on the union’s leadership role. Equally so, the Vice-Chancellor Prof  Ross Hynes and his senior management team was delighted and pledged their support for my new executive. I have pledged our support to the UPNG management team to ensure that UPNG as a premier university of the Pacific lives up to its expectations both now and in the years to come. My team has a catch phrase, “Excellence in innovative academic leadership”, which we stand on during our term of office. We must rise up and take on new challenges and be partners in nation building.”