25 Jan 2007

Fiji unionists hope to speak Friday with interim government over lower retirement age plans

7:29 pm on 25 January 2007

Union officials hope to begin talks with the interim government tomorrow over huge job losses predicted with moves to lower the retirement age.

More than a thousand public servants stand to lose their jobs as the military-backed regime moves to lower the age from 60 to 55.

The new interim public service reforms minister, Poseci Bune, says the move's necessary to make way for thousands of youngsters with tertiary and technical qualifications looking for work.

But the Public Servants Association says lowering the retirement age will cause widespread hardship among public servants.

Its general secretary, Rajeshwar Singh, says the union has warned Mr Bune not to breach the union's collective agreement with the government, which states changes to terms and conditions of employment must be negotiated before being taken to cabinet.

"We have to negotiate, we'll have to put our arguments, the hardships that the people will face. And we will quote some things of a smiliar nature happened in other places and people were compensated. I mean there are lots of issues to be discussed and in negotiations there are lots of things that can happen.'"

Mr Singh says he's been reliably informed that the interim administration is prepared to negotiate with the union.