Among the many women candidates who registered for Tonga’s elections is trades unionist Mele Sivi ‘Amanaki (pictured). A former Civil Servant, she is the Secretary General of the Public Service Association which planned but aborted a strike by sbout 700 workers, over demands for a five per cent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to salaries which would have cost and annual US$2.5 million. Tonga’s Treasury claimed it could not afford the additional burden on the national purse. The strike – planned initially for October 17 and moved to October 20 – was cancelled after fears that the government would use the protest as grounds to postpone the elections. In a statement the association announced that it would “submit the request for a fair and just COLA to the new government in January 2015.”
“The priority to PSA is the safety of the public servants and their families as the emergency powers do not allow political meetings of five people or more and they can use the military to take them to prison without a warrant,” the statement said. ‘Amanaki told Island Business that the PSA had used the Public Service Grievances and Dispute Regulations. The regulations were drawn up in 2006 after a national strike in 2005 ended in riots, burning of businesses in central Nuku’alofa and subsequent looting. The quest for the five per cent increase started in December, last year. ‘Amanaki admits that it is possible for the events of the 2005 strike to reoccur.
“Government should think preventative methods. Right now, employees are angry and don’t have any respect for their leaders,” she said. Last month, they were told by Finance Minister, ‘Aisake Eke, that there was no money. “We say it is the employers’ responsibility to budget finances to deliver the product.” ‘Amanaki faces businessman, Tevita Palu, in the Tongatapu 3 Constituency.
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