Caption: Local employees at the Kobalu camp outside the Hides gasfield throwing their helmets on the ground and ready to walk off their jobs in protest over poor working conditions and welfare yesterday. They also protested to support demands to the state and ExxonMobil by local landowners and landowner leader Andrew Pulupe (centre with petition paper).-Nationalpic by ANDREW ALPHONSE
By ANDREW ALPHONSE
CONSTRUCTION work at the Kobalu supply and forward base for the multi-billion-kina PNG LNG project in Tari,
Southern Highlands, was yesterday forced to stop by angry landowners as discontent grew at the project site, The National reports.
More than 100 local employees, attached with international contractor Red Seas Housing Services Ltd, also supported the landowners and walked off their jobs.
They complained of poor working condition and unfair treatment.
Kobalu landowner leader Andrew Pulupe forced the gates of the forward base shut at 3.30pm yesterday and ordered expatriate employees of
to vacate the premises, allowing only the guards to remain behind to look after the property. Red Seas
Pulupe, who is chairman of Kobalu Joint Venture (JV) Ltd and Hewai Investments Ltd, the two landowners companies from Kobalu, said they supported moves by Hides landowners to force a stop-work until the government and LNG project developer, ExxonMobil, address some of their demands.
Pulupe said Kobalu landowners also wanted to benefit from the government’s business development grants, or seed capital, which other landowners would be getting.
He said they also wanted the state to honour its ministerial commitments made during the umbrella benefits sharing and licensed-based benefits sharing agreements for the LNG project last year.
They also demanded that ExxonMobil restructure the umbrella landowner company, Hides Gas Development Corporation (HGDC), and include landowner companies from each PDL and facility areas as shareholders.
Pulupe had supplied local unskilled labour to
to construct the forward base which would accommodate more than 200 employees at the site. Red Seas
The base would also store materials and equipment for the construction of the LNG pipeline, and act as an aviation centre for helicopters.
An expatriate site manager refused to accept a copy of the petition containing the landowner demands when Pulupe attempted to deliver it to him in his makeshift office inside a shipping container yesterday afternoon.
The expatriate told Pulupe and The National to "f***" off and leave his premises and talk to ExxonMobil.
This infuriated Pulupe, who called the local employees together outside for a briefing and asked them to walk off their jobs. In that meeting, the employees complained to Pulupe about their poor working conditions.
and HGDC had failed to provide proper uniforms and safety gears. Red Seas
They said they were also told to live out of camp and come to work, and were not provided proper meals daily.
Red Sea expatriate, when asked to comment on the complaints raised by the local workers, referred The National to HGDC and ExxonMobil.
Apart from Kobalu, work had also stopped at Hides 1 (PDL 1) and Hides 4 (PDL 7) due to landowner protests. Work had stopped since Aug 7.