29 Mar 2007

Fiji pay cut talks tomorrow amid strike threat

3:35 pm on 29 March 2007

Representatives from six public service unions in Fiji and members of the interim government are to meet tomorrow to discuss plans to cut public workers' pay by 5 percent and reduce the retirement age to 55.

The unions have either held or are about to hold secret ballots over whether to take industrial action over the plans.

The interim government has warned of a strong response in the event of any strike action.

The Permanent Secretary of the Public Service, Taina Tagicakibau says any strike is illegal and workers will lose their jobs as the pay cut and retirement age are non-negotiable.

But the General Secretary of the Viti National Union of Taukei Workers, Taniela Tabu, says the government is holding them to ransom and will pay the price eventually.

"We are telling them, withdraw the gun and let them talk like that to us. When the normal government sits in they will face the music. They can wait, they can hold the gun there. The issues that we are telling them now to address is going to cost them a lot of headaches later on. We feel very strongly if the government thinks that this will go away, it is never going to go away."

Mr Tabu says will offer the government a deal tomorrow to keep the retirement age at 60 in return for accepting the five percent cut for the next three years after which time they will receive a 17 percent wage rise.