efThe Employers’ Federation of Papua New Guinea provides a point of contact for newcomers to the country, whether investors or managers, who seek information and advice on the contemporary labour scene.

The operations of the Federation are funded by its members. In return, they receive access to labour information and industrial support services.

The Federation also provides training for employers and represents their interests at forums in Papua New Guinea and all over the world – not bad for a non-profit organisation set up in 1963 with only three full-time staff.

Since its foundation the Federation has gone from strength to strength and now boasts some of the country’s most influential businessmen on its 160- strong members list. In fact, between them, its members employ over one third of the national workforce.

“The industrial relations set-up here is quite muted in comparison to some other countries,” says Graeme Hogg, the Secretary General of the Federation. “We rarely suffer full-scale strikes and, if we do, they do not last for long. The trade union movement is not too radical.”

Nevertheless the Federation is far from complacent and plays a vital role in creating smooth relations between employers and employees. Consultation rather than confrontation is a phrase Graeme Hogg likes to use when describing the Federation’s philosophy.

The long serving Executive Director, Tau Nana, thinks the secret of the Federation’s success in Papua New Guinea is its emphasis on offering solid, professional advice. “The number of disputes that go to arbitration is a good measure of how successful a country’s industrial relations are,” said Tau. “We have remarkably few.”

One of the most positive developments within the Federation is the number of its staff who have secured overseas fellowships. This has given them the chance to visit and learn from other employer organisations in places such as Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand. Some of the staff have also been on courses in Europe.

“There have not been many changes in the industrial relations field over the years,” said Tau, “although three years ago minimum wages swung away from automatic indication and are now based more on productivity and capacity to pay.

“Some recent developments in Papua New Guinea have been in copper mining, petroleum extraction and forestry. These changes have been absorbed without significant shifts in the country’s labour practices or conditions.”