By Bethanie Harriman – EM TV, Lae
Workers of the country’s electricity provider, PNG Power Limited, working at revenue generating centres in Lae, Port Moresby, Yonki and Mt Hagen held a sit-in strike today.
Most of them have worked for the State Owned Enterprise (SOE) for over twenty years now, and want their entitlements to be paid to them, before key assets of PPL are bought off.
“Our 17.7 per cent must be paid, on top of that all our entitlements must be paid,” says a Union representative, speaking on behalf of the group.
They have called for a decision to be made by Public Enterprise and State Enterprise Minister, Ben Micah. This is because the PPL Management has been asked not to interfere with PNG Power’s operations, during the induced State Of Emergency.
Over the last ten years PNG Power has struggled financially; which saw its management previously ask to increase tariff, a request that was turned down by Papua New Guinea’s National Executive Council.
Instead, a State of Emergency was imposed by Minister Micah; giving him the power to directly handle the financial affairs of PPL, that includes recouping outstanding payments.
Workers have called for a report showing how much money has been recovered and if some of the money can be used to pay their entitlements. Though frustrated over long delays to their payments, Lae based PNG Power workers assured the Lae community that electricity would not be disrupted.
Technical faults will be the only cause for blackouts, the workers said.
They have also called for support from the wider community as they demand for their payments; following the government’s decisions to sell assets that include power stations and PNG Power’s nerve cell, the Yonki hydro facility, operated by long serving employees.
The workers fear that they won’t be paid what is owed to them, when the new company decides to cut back on employment.
This isn’t the first strike by PPL workers. Over the years, workers have staged strikes over political meddling and interferences in the affairs of the company that despite challenges, continues to provide an essential services to the country.