25 Aug 2005

Striking public servants in Tonga reject arbitration offer

4:33 pm on 25 August 2005

Striking public servants in Tonga have rejected an arbitration effort by a New Zealand team.

A meeting was held this morning in Nuku'alofa after which the strikers restated that they wanted the government to meet pre-conditions before mediation.

They want to be given the demanded rises while arbitration is being carried out.

But the government has rejected.

Our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says this has prompted the strikers to pull out.

"They made it clear to the arbitrator that they have withdrawn from the arbitration process until the government meets their demands and that is that they be paid 60, 70 and 80 percent rate during the time he will be doing his arbitration work."

The director of education in Tonga, Viliami Takau, says he will not change his methods of dealing with striking teachers despite the vandalism at two government schools.

Last week, 15 students were arrested for allegedly vandalising property at Tonga College.

The students acted after their principal and chief tutor, who support the public servant strike, were transferred to head office and replaced at the school.

A second incident in Vava'u saw 11 computers smashed and petrol being poured around the local high school.

However Mr Takau says striking teachers are transferred so that others can fill their vacancies.

And he says the ministry will continue to deal with teachers in the same way despite the incidents.

I wouldn't say that that was caused by the ministry's action but I would say that the ministry's action was a consequence of the strike because it's either a choice between leaving the school to be closed up for weeks or try and get the kids who want to come back to class to come back to class.