Court order defied, union solidarity grows
By JEFFREY ELAPA
THE PNG Trade Union Congress has warned of a nationwide rolling strike by major unions as national doctors defied a National Court order to return to work, The National reports.
As the 500 doctors’ strike enters its third day today, other medical workers who belong to the Medical Laboratory Technical Personnel Association of PNG, the Community Health Workers and the PNG Nurses Association are considering their options of industrial action.
The all-powerful PNG Maritime and Transport Workers Union, which handles cargoes at all major PNG ports, also said at the weekend that it was supporting the doctors, who are members of the National Doctors Association (NDA).
Industrial Registrar Helen Saleu last week refused to register the NDA’s grievances as an industrial dispute, preferring to refer it to industrial arbitration tribunal for resolution.
However, umbrella body PNGTUC president John Paska said the congress was planning to call a nationwide strike of its affiliates if the state continued to suppress rights of workers and undermine the trade union movement.
A sympathetic Health Minister Sasa Zibe yesterday blamed the Health and Personnel Management departments’ “administrative slackness” for the strike.
As of 4.06pm last Friday, the doctors started their indefinite stop work after the government failed to respond favourably to their demands for pay increases and improved conditions as agreed in the 2007-10 contract awards.
“We have just gone on strike and we are now on strike and will continue until 4.06pm Monday and, if nothing eventuates, we will all resign en masse,” NDA president Dr Kauve Pomat said.
Two hours into the strike, the NDA executives were served with the court order not to strike but return to court on Wednesday. The doctors refused to accept the order, saying it was late in the day and they were not represented in court.
Deputy Prime Minister Sam Abal had earlier directed Personnel Management secretary John Kali to address the doctors’ demands but Pomat said the secretary failed to meet with them.
The NDA have demanded that:
* An MoA be signed immediately as submitted last September;
* Make funds available to pay the salary packages backdating to Jan 1 last year;
* Contracts of all doctors be adjusted immediately and backdated to last year;
* Kali and Health secretary Clement Malau be sacked for the industrial action;
* Outstanding claims of the 2007-09 awards be met; and
* All Health managers contracts payments be investigated and industrial personnel replaced.
According to the NDA, Kali and Malau had not told the truth about their log of claims.
Pomat said doctors were led to believe that their reviewed job value salary packages would be addressed as agreed to but this was not done.
Paska said Kali and Malau had left the doctors with no option but to go on strike.
“This is the saddest and the darkest hour for trade union in PNG because we are dealing with the people who look after lives.
“Nowhere in the world are doctors treated like this,” he said, adding this sad state of affairs had been dragging for four years.