24 Aug 2005

Tonga government and strikers work on terms for mediator

10:22 am on 24 August 2005

The Tongan Government and Interim Public Service Association representing striking civil servants are working on reference terms for the New Zealand retired judge who will mediate their pay dispute.

The Independent Tongan MP Clive Edwards says the two parties want to have material ready for Judge Thomas Goddard who arrives in Tonga today.

Mr Edwards says while Tonga has no employment law the judge is only looking at whether pay claims of up to 80 per cent are justified and he hopes for calm.

An advocacy group based in New Zealand, the Tongan Advisory Council, says it's quietly optimistic that the arbitration team can find a solution.

The Council's chair Melino Maka understands the team involves a cultural advisor, but it's not clear how it will act in the absence of Tongan industrial relations legislation.

"A member of our council advised me that in the absence of any legislation in Tonga, like the industrial, they usually refer to the British legislation."

Melino Maka says he has heard that both sides in the industrial dispute are quietly optimistic about New Zealand's mediation offer.