TONGANS RETURN TO WORK AFTER 47-DAY STRIKE

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NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 8) - The Tongan government was back in full operation today, according to Kelepi Makakaufaki, the Secretary for the Public Service Commission.

Kelepi said that the government’s 22 departments were in full operation and workers have reconciled and returned to work after government granted their demands for a 60 percent, 70 percent and 80 percent salary rise during Tonga's first national strike, which lasted 47 days.

Kelepi said that yesterday was a very special day for all government departments when ministers and heads of departments held special functions to welcome back strikers.

He said that when he visited government offices yesterday he was quite taken by the mutual feeling of harmony and unity amongst civil servants as they held prayers, sang hymns and held afternoon lunches together.

Kelepi was a target of the public servants dissatisfaction and on Tuesday when the Public Servants Association presented a petition to the King calling for the dismissal of several top civil servants, Kelepi's name was one of them.

"It was quite surprising that in just the first day of their return to work some workers I have met greeted me with a smile and a hug, which to me automatically brushed out the feeling of hatred and despise that has been lingering during the period of the civil servants strike," said Kelepi. "I am just very glad to see everyone return to work."

He also said that this is the regular pay week for government civil servants and to his knowledge the Treasury was working hard to give everyone their wages by the end of this working week.

September 9, 2005

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

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