UNION SAYS IT WILL STRIKE IF NECESSARY

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Mar 21) – A strike planned by the public sector unions will go ahead if members want it, says an official.

Confederation of Public Sector Unions spokesman Nirbhay Singh said if it was the mandate of members to go on strike, then they would.

He was reacting to comments by Public Service Commission chairman Rishi Ram that any strike by civil servants would be declared illegal.

Mr Ram said the emergency decree was in place and to go on strike would be against the law.

He warned that those responsible would be taken to task.

About 92 per cent of the largest public sector union, the Fiji Public Servants Association, last week voted in a secret ballot to go on strike after the Interim Government imposed a five per cent pay cut and reduced the retirement age to 55.

Mr Singh, the FPSA senior industrial relations officer, said union officials were there to accommodate members' wishes.

He said everything done would be within the law and in accordance with the Trade Disputes Act Cap 97.

"The CPSU affiliates are following their objectives as they are entitled to do so under the laws of the country which are protected by the Constitution," he said.

"We will do nothing illegal. All our actions are within the law. We acted in good faith, yet the other side made decisions behind the scenes and took drastic action.

"When PSC rejected our approaches, we referred the whole matter to our rank and file members, as we are duty bound to.

"They considered it all and came back with their confident answers.

"It is the members' wishes, not the officials' to follow all the procedures under the law to its logical and successful conclusion. One of them is dialogue in good faith."

Mr Singh also said that 70 per cent of the 4300 members could just walk off their jobs and did not need to file strike notice.

However, Mr Ram said staging a strike was difficult because there were many procedures to follow beginning with the filing of the 28 days notice for strike action, after which then the Ministry of Labour will be brought in as mediator.

"If there is no settlement reached between the two parties, then the next step is to go to arbitration," said Mr Ram.

He said they would attempt to reach an amicable solution to the matter with the civil servants to avert any strike action by the union members.

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