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In spite of government plea, workers adamant about demands

By Ednal Palmer

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, June 23, 2008) – Solomon Island’s striking telekom workers yesterday turned a deaf ear to calls for them to return to work.

The Government had asked the workers to resume duty, saying Cabinet has now directed the Telekom board to urgently meet over the issue.

But the workers are not taking heed, saying they want action, not promise.

"Our request is simple. Remove Martyn Robinson and we’ll be back to work," a spokesman told the Solomon Star.

"Why can’t the board meet in the last 28 days when we issued the strike notice?

"Why do they have to wait until things started to go out of hand? No, we are not going back to work.

"Mr. Robinson must go before we can come back," the spokesman said.

The workers’ defiance came after they held a meeting yesterday to consider the calls for them to resume duty.

The workers have been accusing Mr. Robinson, the company’s chief executive officer for 16 years, of discrimination.

The spokesman question why the board finds it difficult to sack Mr. Robinson.

"If Mr. Robinson can sack Harry Zoloveke in less than 24 hours, why does it take so long for the board to do the same to him?

"We don’t understand this."

The spokesman said the board and the Government must take the blame for the escalation of the dispute.

"We sympathize with innocent members of the public who are affected by this strike action.

"But as far as we the workers are concerned, the dispute went out of hand because of the board’s lack of action."

The Government on Wednesday directed the National Provident Fund (NPF) board to facilitate an urgent shareholders meeting to address the situation.

They are now waiting for the arrival of a representative of Cable and Wireless, which holds 32.5% shares in our Telekom before the meeting can be held.

The strike, which started Tuesday, had so far affected Solomon Islands and the banks.

With workers refusing to work, more businesses and organizations will suffer in the coming days.

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