19 Jul 2013

Head of Solomon Teachers Association resigns amid strike

5:19 pm on 19 July 2013

The head of the Solomon Islands National Teachers Association Samson Faisi has resigned as president following a threat by the government to suspend the union.

The resignation comes amid third nationwide teachers strike this year.

Beverley Tse has more:

Earlier this week, the government warned SINTA of possible deregistration because Samson Faisi continued as president after losing his job as a teacher in November last year. Mr Faisi says the Registrar of Trade Unions gave SINTA an ultimatum and he was asked by SINTA to relinquish the position.

"SAMSON FAISI: Basically, they based it on personal grounds against me in order to suspend SINTA if I remain as the president. So as a responsible union, as a responsible person, I don't want to see that happen to the union that represents 8,000 plus teachers."

Mr Faisi will now assume the vacant position of industrial relations officer with SINTA.

SAMSON FAISI: My new role will now be to talk to the executive on behalf of our union, with the responsible authorities like the government and other authorities in terms of the current strike action that has been going on at the moment.

He believes the threat to suspend SINTA was personal.

SAMSON FAISI: I feel... picked up on by the government just because I'm so vocal about teachers' issues, and I've a feeling that they are personalising things to tarnish somebody's reputation as well as his own personality. I will still be speaking as normal and as usual as I did in the past, so nothing changes.

Samson Faisi says teachers maintain they will continue striking until the government fulfils a promise made earlier in the week to complete its payment of teachers' relevelling dues.

SAMSON FAISI: We had a meeting with the Minister of Education, who has to come down and then meet with us and the executive. We've already received a letter from him the other day that he's prepared to go as far as to direct his account section within the Ministry of Education to look for money within the budget of the Ministry of Education to pay the first 21 education authorities that are now ready to be paid. And the rest, the other eight, will come following fortnight.

Samson Faisi says he expects the government to fulfil the payments by 25 July 25. Meanwhile, our correspondent in Solomon Islands, Dorothy Wickham, says teachers are facing much ambiguity over the strike.

DOROTHY WICKHAM: Teachers that I've spoken to, they've actually gone to the school and found out that their classes have not started. There's actually no formal written notice to the teachers as you know. I think they were ringing around and texting around their members telling them not to attend classes.

She says parents have also expressed their frustration over the issue.

DOROTHY WICKAM: With the parents, everybody's not very happy with the situation. Some of the parents have paid school fees for a whole year and as you know they've lost a lot of weeks during the strikes, the first two strikes, and now we have this third one. So a lot of the parents are now calling on government to take this issue seriously and address it.

Dorothy Wickham says teachers and parents also want SINTA to be more transparent with them about their negotiations with the government.