Fresh start for union in Solomon Islands
A journalist in the Solomon Islands says the creation of a new trade union this week could start a fresh chapter for workers' rights in the country.
A journalist in Solomon Islands says the creation of a new trade union this week could start a fresh chapter for workers rights in the country.
It comes after the previous National Union of Workers was deregistered over its members' illegal strike during a dispute between the government and the Russell Islands Plantation Estate Ltd.
Our correspondent in Honiara, Dorothy Wickham, told Christopher GIlbert, the new union will try to move on from the problems of the past.
DOROTHY WICKHAM: Well basically as you know there's been a long number of years of turmoil with the Solomon Islands National Union of Workers which represented most of the government and public service workers. So, the formation of this one gives them a voice again, because of the court cases and that that union went bankrupt and had a lot of problems in its own internal problems. This one is way of them revitalising themselves and showing that workers in the country have a voice.
CHRISTOPHER GILBERT: And in terms of timing what environment is it being created in?
DW: I think it's important, especially as we head towards the national elections and also the fact that there's a lot of big developments going on inside the country and also in the private sector.
CG: And is there any ongoing turmoil from the fallout of the previous union?
DW: Well, the willingness of the private sector to join this union and also the public servants to put their trust in this leadership again, will show whether they have the support of workers and if they'll be truly represented by this union.
CG: As you mentioned, the previous union was mostly public servants. This one will represent the public and private sectors, and it's aiming to have a high representation of women. What do you think the major differences and improvements there will be compared to the previous union?
DW: Well the fact that they've included the private sector is a big improvement. I think they'll get more numbers and power in terms of their negotiations, since they do include the private sector workers. Also, the fact in the constitution there's now an obligation that they have 50% percent of the executive are females. And I always say females are better at negotiating issues.
CG: And also do you think that 50% representation of females will go any way to improving the workers rights of females in the Solomon Islands?
DW: That's right, definitely. In the past it's always been that the men were in the forefront of whatever issue they were raising and it was related to more about salaries than about the social affects of women working. Apart from the legal entitlement and that sort of stuff that women get there are no other special permission of a woman in a workforce. So this will be very helpful for a lot of women.
CG: Right, of course the previous union was plagued by the fall out of the incident with the Russell Islands Plantation. Do you think with the creation of new union this is a totally fresh start, or perhaps the new union might suffer ongoing, systematic problem that the previous union had in the Solomon Islands?
DW: I think now it'll now fall on this new executive to ensure that it does not go down that path. That it remains focused on workers rights and not get stuck in the old politics of the former union.
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