Solomons National Union Of Workers To Be Disbanded

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Union has been unable to pay off compensation to RIPEL

By Charles Kadamana

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Dec. 12, 2013) –The Solomon Islands National Union of Workers (SINUW) will soon disappear from all public and official records.

This was after the High Court ordered de-registration and wind-up of the trade union, on Wednesday.

The order was issued after Russell Islands Plantation Estates Limited (RIPEL) took SINUW to court to pay up the balance of the compensation it owed to RIPEL for the damages (awarded by the High Court) caused by its illegal strike action started in June 2004.

The outstanding amount that SINUW still owes RIPEL is SBD$4,749,703.81 [US$644,535].

The decision would come as a blow to SINUW, which recently lost its office building in central Honiara to RIPEL under an earlier court order.

RIPEL has since sold the building, located behind the Central Magistrate’s Court, to cover its losses.

SINUW general secretary Tony Kagovai could not be reached yesterday for comments, but the Solomon Star understands the order was already served on him and the Registrar of Trade Unions.

A lawyer familiar with the case said SINUW’s final downfall is the result of its being unable to pay the full amount of compensation, ordered by the High Court, to RIPEL.

"With this latest court order, it is unlawful to operate an organisation that is insolvent. Which is what SINUW has become," the lawyer said.

"The effect of the de-registration of SINUW means that SINUW will cease to enjoy any rights, immunities or privileges and no person can take any part in its management or organisation or act or purport to act on behalf of SINUW.

"SINUW has been brought to its end, as a direct result of its own actions and complete disrespect for the Laws of Solomon Islands."

The battle between SINUW and RIPEL goes back to September 2003, when SINUW started fomenting industrial disputes against RIPEL, which culminated in an illegal strike in February 2004.

A meeting was held at Yandina in March 2004 to resolve the issues, however SINUW refused to back down and its General Secretary stated very clearly and openly, that if SINUW’s demands were not granted, they would go ahead with strike action to completely destroy RIPEL.

SINUW then ramped up its campaign to kick off its illegal strike action, which commenced on 17th June 2004 and has never ceased, despite the fact that the High Court ordered on 7th October 2004, that SINUW be restrained from continuing its illegal strike.

The consequences of SINUW’s illegal strike have had a disastrous impact on the national economy, its reputation and in particular on many of RIPEL employees and their families.

Several thousand people, whose livelihoods were dependent on RIPEL, have suffered from the destruction of RIPEL.

A RIPEL spokesman said the company lost its livestock, machines, plants, equipment and infrastructure were systematically destroyed.

"It is estimated, that it would cost about SBD$100 million [US$13.6 million] to return RIPEL back to what it was before SINUW’s war of destruction started.

"From June 2004 to the present time, RIPEL has lost over SBD$500 million [US$67.8 million] in export sales of copra and cocoa," the spokesman said.

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