TONGA PUBLIC WORKERS PONDER NATIONWIDE STRIKE

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NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, July 20) - Tonga's Public Servants will meet tomorrow in a pay dispute amid repeated calls for a national strike after government failed to reply to complaints arising from huge disparities in salaries.

The President of the Public Servants Association, Finau Tutone, confirmed today that there had been no response from government to a letter of grievances that the PSA presented to Paula Ma'u, the Deputy Secretary of the Prime Minister on July 15.

Finau said that they stated in their letter that they wanted a response from government within three working days, from Monday July 18.

Finau said that the Interim Committee would meet later today, and would call all public servants to a meeting tomorrow to decide on what they should do next.

Meanwhile, Tongatapu People's Representative to the Tongan Parliament, Clive Edwards, said on OBN Television last night that the People's Representatives would support a national strike. He said that if Public Servants decided to strike, they had to be serious about it because it would be ineffective if only some took action while others went to work.

"If the public servants go on a national strike it will collapse the government," he said.

He warned that they would not get a satisfactory reply from government in another soft approach, because the Prime Minister was leaving for overseas today and the Minister of Finance was also abroad.

Clive Edwards stressed the huge disparities between top echelon public servants salary rises and the rest of the public service, saying that while government ministers now earned over 100,000 paanga (US$51,000) a year, policemen struggled to survive on 2,600 paanga (US$1,336) a year.

On July 13, over 1,000 public servants met and although some wanted a protest march and a national strike, the public servants decided to give government a chance to reply to their complaints that they needed an opportunity to negotiate for a more comprehensive salary rise.

They unanimously agreed for the PSA to write a letter to government asking not to pay public servants at the old salary rate, because they wanted to negotiate the new salary revision, which they were not happy with because they disagreed with the formula used to set the salaries.

July 21, 2005

Matangi Tonga: www.matangitonga.to/nav.html

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