Papua New Guinea’s emerging collectivism
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ITF-affiliated unions continue to provide advice, support and a global perspective to fishers in Papua New Guinea. The country has seen a considerable increase in investment from multinational fisheries keen to harvest its waters. Along with the employment opportunities that this offers the local workforce, comes the need for them to gain information and support from trade unions to ensure that labour practices are fair and contractually agreed.
Over the past 18 months ITF has been at the forefront of organising grassroots collectivism in the country. Working closely with the Papua New Guinea Maritime and Transport Workers Union (PNGMTWU), ITF has provided training on vessel inspections and all aspects of campaign work. Its primary aim was to increase the scope of the union’s membership and work towards organising workers in fish processing plants and catching companies.
“We are negotiating to improve employment conditions for workers who are members of our organisation,” said Donnath Malawae, PNGMTWU’s Fisheries coordinator. “Our union is [concentrating on] negotiations with various [multinationals operating] within Papua New Guinea.”
ITF-affilated unions are negotiating towards the provision of workwear for all workers in the processing plants, a living wage and transport infrastructure. Many workers walk up to 20km to get to and from work because of the lack of decent transport.
By organising workers and providing them with detailed help in planning, executing and evaluating their campaigns, ITF’s work is proving successful. Bargaining relationships have been established with South Sea Tuna, a major exporter in the North America and European market. Where management opposition to unionisation does occur, the workers are successfully balloting to force negotiations.
“Management response to our work is going well. Recently the International Food Corporation and Frabelle [two multinationals] have agreed to union meetings,” said Malawae.
The next five years will involve further work for ITF-affiliated unions in Papua New Guinea, as they continue to work towards achieving decent working and living standards for all workers. The local unions hope to achieve 100 per cent density in membership in this and other growing sectors, creating sustainable workplace structures that provide local bargaining and representation.
“Yes, our union is doing well in helping Papua New Guinea’s maritime and fishing workers,” said Malawae. “Our union will experience a big membership [increase] from the fisheries sector.”