Niue opposition says four-day working week 'mickey mouse'
There is concern in Niue about the introduction of a four-day working week in the public sector and opposition MPs are trying to force the government to reconsider.
There is unease in Niue about the introduction of a four-day working week in the public sector.
Opposition MPs say there are smarter solutions which will give people the pay rises they desperately want.
And they say the initiative is the latest in a series of policies that are not in the interests of the country but the government has refused to debate it.
Bridget Tunnicliffe reports:
The four day working week for public service workers comes in to force next week and will affect around 400 people.
The opposition MP Terry Coe says the premier Toke Talagi has introduced the measure because he doesn't have the money to fulfil a promise to increase public servants' wages by 20 percent. Instead workers will take Fridays off and still be paid. Mr Coe says the majority of public servants would rather get more money.
TERRY COE: Most of the public servants don't want the day off, they want the pay increase, not necessarily 20 percent but a pay increase because of the rising cost of living on Niue, and they need the money, not the day off.
Terry Coe says the government is considering paying teachers extra because they don't have the option of taking a day off but it's not clear what will happen to other essential workers like the police. The executive director for the Transformation of the Public Service, Justin Kamupala, says there has been some concerns about how the new policy will affect productivity. But he says the four day working week is being run as a trial and any issues will have to be assessed as they go along.
JUSTIN KAMUPALA: It's been an issue that the government has had under consideration for some time now so the government's had a number of years in terms of deliberating whether or not they would proceed with it however I think it's got to the time where they believe it's something that they should go ahead with.
Terry Coe says the government should have just offered public servants a 5 percent pay rise and then given them another increase at a later stage when they had the money. He says it's widely acknowledged that the Public Service is too big anyway and the government could make a huge saving there.
TERRY COE: There's approximately 40 to 50 vacancies in the public service, and the public service is running all right without those vacancies being filled. Why not just do away with the vacancy, take the pay that was allocated for that vacancy and share it amongst the people who are taking over that position's responsibilities.
The leader of opposition MPs Togia Sioneholo, says the four-day working week is one of a number of policies that they believe are not in the interests of the country. He believes the government still has ideas about housing Australia's asylum seekers, despite Premier Toke Talagi's proposal being rejected by parliament yesterday, thanks to a motion by opposition MPs. Mr Sioneholo says he will not be surprised if the premier raises it again if he's successful at this year's general election because he needs the money that would come with housing a processing centre.
TOGIA SIONEHOLO: I think the premier is desperate to get some money I think his books are not balanced at the moment because he's spending quite a lot of money, because it's election year and he's spending left, right, and centre as part of his campaign.
Terry Coe says he put forward a motion to the house to stop the introduction of the four-day week, but government MPs boycotted the meeting. He'll have the opportunity to raise it again on Monday.
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