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PNG Power employees protest over 50% sales announcement

EMPLOYEES of PNG Power Limited downed tools yesterday in protest over the proposed sale of 50% of the company by the State.
More than 1000 company workers, who are members of the PNG Energy Workers Union, staged the stop-work yesterday morning and gave the company 24 hours to meet their demands, including:
Entitlements estimated to be around K8 million outstanding from 2002 and 2003;
15% ownership of the company. Public Enterprises and State Investments Minister Ben Micah had revealed the proposed 50% sale of the company at the Investment and Infrastructure summit meeting in Port Moresby on Wednesday
Union general secretary Santee Margis said yesterday: “The issues of selling PNG power is the decision of the Government. The employees are simply saying that if they want to sell PPL, pay them all their entitlements – plus a 15% ownership to be given to them.”
It is understood that PNG Power chief executive officer John Tangit had tried to convince the union members not to walk off their jobs yesterday morning.
He later issued a circular to them saying that the company had not yet been sold, saying “the process will require the participation of the PPL board and management, and the Independent Public Business Corporation”.
“While it is no secret that the Government is thinking of selling some of its equity in some State-owned enterprises, including PPL, no such actions have taken place,” he said.
“I urge all staff to have a sensible response to any external speculation and rumours and allow management time to address any issues raised and communicate matters to staff accordingly.”
The company late last month had admitted facing serious insolvency problems, with Bank South Pacific demanding an immediate payment of K10 million (on Aug 21) to clear an overdraft. The State had to bail the company out.
Board chairman Larry Andagali had blamed the increase in fuel prices, general expenses and the value of the PNG kina against the US dollar for the company’s financial predicament.
Margis yesterday said workers were holding meetings at the power stations, including Moitaka, Rouna, Ramu, Yonki and Lae. They will decide what to do next if the 24-hour deadline for their demands is not met.
“These issues (from 2002 and 2003) have been there for so many years,” Margis said.
“The workers do not support the PPL sale because they do not know whether it will serve the interest of the business community and benefit the workers. Now the workers are saying enough is enough.”

ONE PNG / The National

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