GOROKA - Day labour is a burning issue in the Gumine District of Simbu Province in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and I want to join the discussion.
Day labour is a form of work where labourers are hired to work and paid on a day-to-day basis. It is especially seen in construction, manufacturing sites and on plantations.
Day labourers can be employed by an agency or an employer on contractual basis for at least a day. Sometimes this happens when workers are needed for a specific project.
There is another category of day labour, though, where unemployed people wait around for an announcement of employment opportunities so that they can engage themselves as cheap workers to earn a bit of money for survival.
So how come day labour has become so popular around Gumine recently?
The first time I heard the term was in 2016 when a youth from my village happened to be given a contract by the District Development Authority in Gumine to build a new road from where the main road link ended to the other side of a village where the bulk of the community lived.
The contractor tasked community members to construct the road. In fact, it would need a bridge built before vehicles could reach the village. Anyway, for some reason, the contract was approved and roadworks were undertaken.
At the time, the term ‘day labour’ was new to me but the village people adopted it and it has become popularised in the District.
Early this year, during my vacation at home, the term was on the lips of many Gumine people who were also excited upon hearing that the local MP would be spending some time at home. People were hiring vehicles and traveling to his village, saying the MP would dish out payments for day labour.
There were even people who had loaned money to others claiming to be contractors for certain projects who said that they could wait no longer for the day labour payment to be made as their children would soon need them for school fees.
The local contractors assured the lenders that the day labour payment would be made soon. Others went into hiding in other places of Papua New Guinea.
I wonder about all this. Are those claiming to develop the Gumine District contracted from taxpayers’ money. Is day labour an official concept, approved by the Gumine District Development Authority?
Does the District Treasury know about it? And if so, what areas of the district service improvement program does it cover or come under?
If these questions can’t be answered, the whole thing is a joke and the users of the term could be called clowns.
My humble plea to DDA members and other district authorities is to clarify the misleading concept for themselves, local contractors, money lenders, day labourers and other affected citizens.
Let’s get real and deliver rather than hyperactive about a scheme that may not actually exist.