ABC Radio Australia
The slowing of Australia’s mining boom has led to big job losses but it seems Papua New Guineans working in Australia are defying the trend and holding on to their jobs.
There are around 3000 skilled Papua New Guineans working in the mining sector in Australia.
Presenter: Jemima Garrett
Speaker: Soleiy Didwick, Vice President, PNG WA; Ben Imbun, School of Management, University of Western Sydney.
In the past 12 months 20,000 jobs have been lost in the Australian mining sector.
Coal has been hardest hit but gold mining and base metals such as copper and nickel are all affected.
The largest community of Papua New Guinea mine workers is in Western Australia.
Soleiy Didwick, Vice President of the the community organisation PNG WA, is a fly-in fly-out auto-electrician who works at BHP Billiton’s Mt Newman mine.
He says Papua New Guineans are not losing their jobs.
DIDIWICK: I can’t really see anything happening to papua New Guineans. Most of us are still in our permanent roles.
GARRETT: Why is it, do you think, that papua New Guineans arn’t losing their jobs when other people are?
DIDIWICK: One of the things that I can see, as a Papua New Guinean, I think the culture that we come from, we don’t seems to jump jobs every now and then and this probably builds trust within the employer.
GARRETT: The Papua New Guineans working in Australia are the cream of the PNG workforce, often with many years of experience in tough environments.
Ben Imbun, from the School of Management at the University of Western Sydney says the seniority of the roles they hold helps protect them from being sacked.
IMBUN: Senior mines project engineer, senior open pit mining engineer, drill blasts you know, engineers and all that, so it is quite key jobs in supervisory some of them.
GARRETT: Before the boom started to tighten you found Papua New Guineans were getting promoted faster than their Australian counterparts is that still the case?
IMBUN: Still, stil the case because of the experience, their performance. In fact as I’ve heard, some of the PNGers in particular that I’ve interviewed, they said they were doing a lot of training of Australian young miners, engineers and other technical, chemists, yeah!
GARRETT: Papua New Guineans are not immune from the job cuts.
Some have moved from Western Australia to the Northern Territory to follow the work.
Despite a skills shortage at home Soliey Didwick says none are looking to return to PNG.
DIDIWICK: When we go back there, we will be underpaid like 3 times 4 times less than what we get it, here. They are not looking to go back to PNG most of them are talking to go overseas.
GARRETT: So if they lose their job they will go on to another country overseas.
DIDWICK: That is correct.
GARRETT: Some Papua New Guinean mine workers have moved on to Asia or Africa, or joined others already working in the Middle East.
Ben Imbun says the brain drain from PNG is not just affecting mining professionals.
IMBUN: Also the pilots as well. You wouldn’t believe it. PNG is one of the toughest flying conditions in the world. So what had happened, Air Niugini the national airline up there it is a parallel story so I am just touching on that. Some of these local pilots are flying Abu Dhabi, Etihad airlines, even one if the flight controller, controls the whole operations, previously they flew for Air Niugini, local pilots. They have also come out, they have gone similar to the extractive industry workers. So some are flying for Cathay Pacific and so forth.