TONGA STRIKERS NEW DEMANDS: DISMISS DEPARTMENT HEADS

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NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Aug. 7) – A financial appeal was launched by Tonga's striking civil servants on Friday, targeting local businesses and Tongans overseas, as the strikers broadened their demands.

A five-pages appeal document circulated by Tonga Finau, the fund raising liaison officer for the Public Service Association, gives a brief background of the national strike, which goes into its 18th day tomorrow, Monday July 8. The document issued by the "Interim Organizing Committee, of the Civil Servants Walking Home Strike", chaired by Finau Tutone, sets out some of their grievances.

The main reason for the national strike, stated in the first line of the document was, "…due to injustice exercised by the distribution of the nation's wealth by His Majesty's Cabinet."

It outlined civil servants demand for a "60%, 70%, and 80%" salary rise and highlighted a number of government projects, which they said ended with the country losing millions of pa'anga.

"It is easy for this government to give away millions of dollars to the Shoreline Group of Companies, to the failed government-owned Royal Tongan Airlines…And yet, asking them for $20 million to cater for the proposed salary increase for the least-privileged, it is difficult for them to give."

Tonga Finau, said that the demand by the strikers had broadened since the strike started on July 22. He said that the consensus feeling among the striking civil servants was that even if government accepted their demands, "We don't want to go back and work under those Heads of Departments. We think that government should pay them for the rest of their two-year contracts, then send them home and advertise the posts."

Tonga also admitted that the strike had been politicised, but it had given Tonga an opportunity to usher in a political reform.

He noted that the civil servants were not given legal access to the opportunity of forming a trade union, and that the strike that was currently taking place, "is a civil disobedience being peacefully arranged".

Monday, August 8, 2005

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

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