Solomons Trade Unions Urged To Work Together

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

National Council must promote, protect interests of local workers

By Eddie Osifelo

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, April, 5, 2016) – The National Secretary of the Solomon Islands National Council of Trade Unions (SICTU), Tony Kagovai has called on trade unions in the country to find ways to work together to promote and protect the interests of Solomon Islands workers.

Mr Kagovai made the call while welcoming the new elected President of Workers Union of Solomon Islands (WUSI).

"The trade unions are going to face increasingly challenges due to the fact that many of our institutions are not functioning as they were intended to work by foreign and national founding fathers," Mr Kagovai said.

One example of this, he said, is dealing with the confused messages coming out from the CEO of Solomon Islands Ports Authority who has been saying that his reforms are aimed at driving down the prices in Solomon Islands.

While at the same time increase tariff charges at 240% in a period of about six months which can have the effect of increasing the domestic prices of imported goods.

"Such increase is going to make our exports less competitive in the international market and this can have a serious impact on the Solomon Islands economy.

"It is for this reason that the Government must undertake an independent investigation into what Collin Yow is doing at the Ports and I had formally requested this to the former Minister for Infrastructure Development Minister copied to the Prime Minister," Kagovai said.

He said that while promoting and protecting workers rights and interests are the primary responsibility of trade union movement, "we must also do whatever is legal, legitimate and morally right to protect Solomon Islands and genuine investors whenever we fell that they are unfairly targeted.

"Investors are so crucial to the economy life of this country especially export oriented investors because they are crucial to making sure our foreign reserves are healthy and we are in a position to trade with other countries," Kagovai said.

At the same time, Kagovai said, that the biggest challenge facing Solomon Islands is having to deal with individuals both foreigners and nationals who consider their own individual personal interests more than the interests of Solomon Islands and our future generations.

As such Kagovai said that Tuhanuku’s election into the union is important because he was the President of the former Solomon Islands National Union of Workers (SINUW), President of SICTU, and the South Pacific and Oceanic Council of Trade Unions (SPOCTU) before, during and after the ethnic tension.

"I was General Secretary of SINUW at the time and also an official in SICTU and we were able to assist thousands of workers who lost their jobs as a result of the social unrest to get home and in many cases to get their services and normal entitlements paid," he said.

He said that with the many dispute now facing WUSI and other challenges facing workers in Solomon Islands, "I truly welcome Tuhanuku to return and assist in the trade union movement."

Meanwhile, Mr Yow told the public forum at Heritage Park hotel last Thursday that the increase of tariff charges will not affect big investors like Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oil Limited (GPPOL) because they earned alot of money in this country.

Yow said most of their profits have been returned back to overseas to pay their shareholders, while they paid only taxes to the government.

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