28 Jul 2005

Tonga's main hospital hit by strike as union man warns of potential violence

5:46 pm on 28 July 2005

Many doctors and nurses in Tonga have walked off the job to join the sixth day of industrial action by nearly 3,000 state workers.

They are upset over how much top public servants are getting paid, and are asking for pay rises of their own, of up to 80 per cent.

The government says it's looking into the claims.

Tonga's main hospital has lost 40 per cent of its workforce to the strike, led by the interim Public Servants Association.

The president of the Tonga Medical Association, Dr Siale Akau'ola, says the hospital in the capital, Nuku'alofa, is open for emergency cases only.

"You know it's not only the doctors who are supporting the thing, but we have the other paramedical staff, like radiology, technicians and some of the laboratory staff, and the maintenance staff, they're actually joined the grievances shown by the civil servants."

Dr Siale Akau'ola.

Meanwhile, the Chair of the interim Public Service Association in Tonga has warned that there is potential for violence among thousands of striking workers.

Finau Tutone says situation is tense and has not been helped by the lack of a satisfactory response from government.

Mr Tutone says there is a fear that week-long demonstrations could turn nasty.

I think that some of the people have voiced that concern, but we try our best to calm them down and have dialogue with the government, but if they still close their doors for negotiations or talking, I'm afraid the people are not going to be suffocated in the house. They make break the windows and doors, in order to get some air.

The Chair of the interim Public Service Association in Tonga, Finau Tutone.