11 Jul 2007

Three Fiji public sector unions withdraw strike threat

9:55 am on 11 July 2007

Three large public sector unions in Fiji have called off their notice to go on a national strike after they signed an agreement with the interim administration in Suva last night.

The Fiji Public Service Association, the Fiji Teachers Union and the Nurses Association have reached agreement with the minister for the public service, Poseci Bune, which will see their 5% pay cut restored gradually beginning with 1% in December.

The timeframe for the restoration of the remaining 4% will be subject to negotiation and will depend on the improvements in the economy.

The issue of the lowering of the retirement age from 60 to 55 has been left in abeyance because it is the subject of a court case.

The general secretary of the Fiji Trades union Congress, Felix Anthony, says the agreement recognizes that if the economy does well, Fiji's workers will do well because they will be in a better position to demand better wages and working conditions.

But last night's agreement does not include three other public sector unions which are determined to press ahead with their strike action early next month.

The Fijian Teachers Association, the Viti National Union of Taukei Workers and the Public Employees Union maintain they were not party to last night's agreement.

Their spokesman, Taniela Tabu, says the unions in the Confederation of Public Sector Unions have given in because they are making their connection with their political master, the minister of finance, Mahendra Chaudhry.