ABOUT 400 workers of fish processing company, RD Tuna Cannery in Madang have been suspended by the company, The National reports.
The action by the company followed a strike on July 22 over the minimum wage rate of K2.29 an hour which, the workers claimed, the company had not honoured.
RD Tuna Cannery’s failure to apply the minimum wage, which came into effect this year, did not go down well with the disputing members of the workforce who opted for industrial action.
Yesterday, the company confirmed that 400 production workers had been placed on preventive suspension.
It said that on July 22 the production workers on night shift just sat down and refused to work despite explanation and pleas of the management to report to work.
“As a result of their mass action, we sustained losses,” RD Tuna Cannery said in a statement, adding the reason of the mass action was the delayed implementation of the new K2.29 an hour minimum wage rate.
“In compliance with the Minimum Wages Board Determination, RD Tuna Cannery has implemented the rate of K1.14 per hour and 26 weeks later, RD implemented the mandated rate of K1.72 per hour.
“However, on the implementation of the K2.29, RD opted to exercise a provision in the determination given to sector/employers with provision for partial wage payment to include payments for housing, transport assistance etc.”
RD Tuna Cannery said that on Oct 12 last year, it filed a position paper with the director of the National Tripartite Consultative Council seeking, among others, a consideration as “cash wage” the cost of transportation which RD spends to pick up and drop off the workers which was about K120,000 a fortnight or K3 million a year and the cost of meals which RD provides the workers at K3 a head a meal.
It said that although the NTCC acknowledged receiving the position paper, it failed to notify the cannery about the status of its claim within 26 weeks as required in the determination.
“As a result of this delay the workers resorted to this industrial action,” RD Tuna Cannery said.
“Just like the implementation of K1.14 and the K1.72, RD has committed to comply with whatever the decision of NTCC on our petition.”
In a meeting between the RD Tuna Cannery management and the Labour Department, the labour provincial officer in Madang declared that the workers did not comply with the requirements of conducting a legal strike under the PNG labour laws and regulations and considered their strike action to be illegal.
RD currently employs about 1,000 workers in the production area. With the suspension of a portion of its workforce, RD is taking alternative measures to ensure that operations were not hampered.