13 Jul 2007

Fiji public service unions up the ante in talks with interim administration

9:28 am on 13 July 2007

The threat of a strike by some public service unions in Fiji is intensifying.

This follows the introduction of new issues into the negotiations by the unions and accusations by the government that they are politicising the talks.

The three unions affiliated with the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions (FICTU) now want arrangements to be made for the payment of 10% Cost of Living Adjustments agreed to in the Partnership Agreement with the deposed government.

Their spokesman, Tanilela Tabu, is also questioning why some military officers were promoted this week when public servants have been asked to make sacrifices.

As well, he has taken issue with the appointment of Rajeshwar Singh, who heads the rival Confederation of Public Sector Unions, as chairman of the 51% state-owned company, Air Terminal Services.

Mr Tabu says their 12,000 members are ready to go on strike.

The interim minister for the public service, Poseci Bune, says the new issues brought up by the unions are beyond industrial relations and border on politics.

Mr Bune says military promotions have no budgetary implications and the cabinet may withdraw concessions already made if the unions keep bringing up extraneous matters.

He says if the unions want to mix industrial relations with politics, the talks will get nowhere and the workers of the country will suffer.