THE NATIONAL PANDEMIC BILL IS TRIVIAL AND TOOTHLESS

by
ADRIAN KAMBERAN

MINING COMPANIES ARE ALLOWING EXPATRIATES TO ENTER WITHOUT ADHERING TO COVID-19 AND SOE PROTOCOLS.

WHY the controllers turning deaf ears and blind eyes on our companies playing hide and seek game on state and her authorities by not following COVID-19 protocols and SOE orders (even before the last day of the SOE) put in place by the authorities? This question must be answered by relevant authorities if you mean business in addressing COVID-19 case in the country. This post is firstly in relation to numerous concerns raised regarding the New Crest Mining foul playing by the authorities undermining the set procedures by allowing direct flights from Australia and are never quarantined. And secondly, it was reported that the Company is asking its employees to either resign or take long leaves. There is something fishy going on in the mining and relevant authorities should conduct a wider consultation and survey at the mine site to assess the realities at the site. Stop this nonsense on controlling Papua New Guineans at their own soil. They are in their land and they never go out of country looking for Mr. Wuhan. It is the people who are coming into the country that will bring the virus in if we do not control our international flights and our borders.

New Zealand received its first 2 new cases after coming down to level one yesterday (6th of June, 2020). The people infected were traveling from London. Citizens are frustrated about why people are still allowed to travel from overseas at such times when coronavirus is still active in all countries. Those who travelled to Auckland transited via Australia. This questions the complacency, weakness and softness of the authorities of both countries in controlling and stopping the virus from entering both countries (Australia and New Zealand).

However, my concern is, according to reports from the employees of the mine, Newcrest Mining Limited, Lihir Gold operation has a direct Cairns flight on Sunday to Lihir island and accommodate them in their residents because they're expatriate bosses without isolating them either at Pom or elsewhere according to COVID-19 protocols.

According to an employee, it has been reported and I quote, "today(Tuesday, 16th of June, 2020) 6 x flights from Cairns arrived and Landowners put Gorgor or stop them at Lihir Airport and cancelled those flights. Newcrest has set a camp 4 already to isolate incoming employees and we camp residents already moved out to other camps for sleep". It was further reported that company already had accommodated 100 PNG national employees in camp 4 for isolation but why not expatriate employees. It was reported that they first came and go straight into their residential homes. Many employees have raised concerns that the company is breaching SOE policy and protocols. They further said, no COVID-19 cases in PNG but they are afraid of their lives there and all employees supporting the landowners now for stopping all expatriates flying into Lihir island and the issue is very tensed.

While taking these issues into perspective, there is no point in enacting legislation when our poor national mine workers are at risk and are exposed to COVID-19. There is a negligence of duty by relevant authorities if these reports are to be true.

Another notable issue raised by the workers at the mining is regarding their employment being volatile. It was reported that the company want to employ more expatriates and abandoning the nationals. A report states, "Newcrest Management told us to force sign some options for resign or home for 4 months without full pay and said to access our entitlements. If entitlements used up ok leave without pay".

What is the Departments of labor and Industrial Relations doing? Do we have some authorities and process & procedures in our industrial relation matters in protecting our national employees?

I am acutely aware that when you're forced to resign, you're going to have to leave your job at some point, but you may be able to negotiate your separation from the company. As the company no longer wishes to continue your employment, you may have an advantage in the negotiations, unless you are about to be terminated for cause. For this case what is the cause?

Employees resign from work for a number of reasons. These include another job opportunity, unacceptable working conditions and retirement. In this case ,none. They are not aware of such decisions coming from the management. While we understand that employers can also terminate employees for a number of reasons, including poor performance and the need to reduce the workforce because of budget cuts or slow business. In some cases, employers can force employees to resign. The later is what matters with the nationals at the New Crest Mining.

If the company wants its employees to resign, then it gives an employee the option to resign or be fired or laid off. Perhaps, companies sometimes give the employee a chance to resign so he has a better chance of finding a new job, so it is sometimes a courtesy to the employee to have this option. In other cases, a company needs to lay off an employee for budgetary or operational purposes, so it allows the employee to choose whether he is terminated or resigns. New Crest Mining might create working conditions that are hard for employees to tolerate, forcing them to resign. Therefore relevant authorities must look into this matter as soon as possible before things go out of hand.

Let us be proactive rather than reactive to issues. Be realistic in our approaches and not to be providing band-aid measures. Some issues need proactive actions before they explode. Therefore, if such situations are warranted by the COVID-19, then the relevant authorities need to look into these issues using their powers conferred by the laws.
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