SUVA, Fiji (Dec. 30) - The threatened public worker strike over the annual Cost of Living Adjustment will, if it happens, help nobody.

Union members will yet again sacrifice hard earned money, while vital services to the public - particularly in the areas of health and education - will be curtailed.

In fact, everybody loses - the sick, the young and the strikers.

The plain fact is that the public is no longer prepared nor is it able to fund an annual pay increase for civil servants without receiving anything in return.

If people could see improved services, more enlightened attitudes or at the very least an improved attendance record among civil servants, they might be more inclined to take their side.

But the argument that they deserve a pay rise because they need one is simply no longer tenable.

The public perception is that civil servants are already pampered while there is also deep unease at reforms that give the top echelon a very substantial pay increase while saying little about productivity.

Governments past and present, as the country’s largest employer by far, have set some very poor examples in industrial relations.

For while the rest of the world, as well as the Fiji private sector, has been forced by the pressures of public opinion, competition or both to peg pay increases to productivity and efficiency gains, successive governments have blithely handed over inflation-proofed wage deals year after year - while exhorting the private sector to be more productive.

Now the present Government is prepared to practice what it preaches and there is widespread public support for that policy position.

Any strike by civil servants at this time will have little public support.

But such a strike would cause damage - though it would be pain without gain for all concerned.

December 30, 2003



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