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Estimated K500m is lost in wage theft, says PNG Trade Union Congress

The PNG Trade Union Congress has condemned what it termed as “wage theft” in Papua New Guinea.

PNG Trade Union Congress general secretary John Paska said wage theft occurs when a job is undervalued or where a person is not paid the full amount for the position he or she is held against.

He said both instances constitute “wage theft”.

“It is criminal and amounts to daylight robbery. It denies workers what is due to them and its bad for the economy because much of what is stolen is repatriated offshore,” he said.

He said non-payment of legal minimum wages, overtime I allowances, superannuation and other benefits and entitlements all amount to wage theft.

“Many employers for instance currently pay K2.50 (US$0.77) as opposed to K3.50 (US$1.08) minimum rate per hour. This means employees are being denied K1 (US$0.30) per hour or K80 (US$24) per fortnight over an 80 hour pay period.

“Translated for 70,000 minimum wages earners in the country and it amounts to a staggering K145.6 million (US$44.9 million) in a year or K728 million (US$224 million) over the last 5 years stolen since the last minimum wage determination in 2013,” Paska said

Throw in overtime allowances, undervalued jobs, superannuation and the magnitude of the problem becomes mindboggling.

“It’s wrong and amounts to stealing. While there are good conscientious employers, there are many bad employers who undercut good employers by stealing from their employees.

“The worst offenders in PNG are those who pay below the legal minimum rate. Shop assistants, security, construction and plantation workers are the most abused.

“Wage theft is an international phenomenon not unique to PNG. Billions of dollars are lost to wage theft in America alone,” Paska said

“We estimate K500 million (US$154 million) is lost yearly to wage theft in PNG. At this rate we have lost K21 billion (US$6.4 billion) but say K10 billion (US$3 billion) on a count back to wage theft alone since Independence.”

Paska said the magnitude of the problem made wage theft one of the biggest problems confronting PNG today.


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