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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (January 19, 1999 - PACNEWS/SIBC)---The Solomon Islands government is ready to implement plans to downsize the country's civil service after settling outstanding issues with public sector unions.

The development results from a weekend meeting the Prime Minister, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu, and representatives of the Solomon Islands' 10 public sector unions. The unions have a combined total membership of more than 4,000.

The unions requested the meeting to discuss several issues they wanted the government to resolve, before they would fully agree to implementation of the government's policy and structural reform program.

More than 500 civil servants will be laid off under the program, with 77 middle to senior positions already abolished at the end of last year.

According to the General Secretary of the Public Employees Union, Clement Waiwori, Prime Minister Ulufa'alu assured the unions that the government will pay all legal entitlements due to public officers laid off. These include redundancy payments and repatriation costs. As an additional incentive, the government will pay a year's school fee for children whose parents will lose their jobs.

The government also will provide training for the former civil servants, to help them relocate in the private sector.

The government has secured a 30 million dollar (US$ 4.2 million) loan from the Asian Development Bank to fund the cost reduction and downsizing program. The entire project now is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

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