5 Aug 2005

Tongans public servants strike joined by health workers

2:00 pm on 5 August 2005

A public servants strike in Tonga is escalating with health workers voting last night to join the protest.

Today is the 15th day of a strike by several thousand government workers, who want to be paid up to 80 percent more, but the government is offering a maximum of 30 percent.

Our correspondent Mateni Tapueluelu says the government last night repeated on television that it cannot afford payments that would amount to big slice of the country's annual budget.

"But the interim committee for the civil servants have decided to stand firm. It is my understanding that they have economists and accountants inside the committee and somehow they believe that the government too has the funds to finance their figures but the political will is not there."

From today doctors, nurses and other medical staff are expected to join the strike.

The strikers plan more parades today in Nuku'alofa and intend presenting their demands directly to the King on Monday.

Britain has reviewed its travel advisory for Tonga, saying tourists should avoid political gatherings there.

The Foreign and Commonwealth office says if travellers are concerned they might wish to check the latest situation with their travel agent before departure.