NZEI Members Help Striking Tongan Workers
The members of New Zealand’s largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, are supporting striking teachers, health workers and public servants in Tonga.
Tonga’s 3000 public servants went on strike more than three weeks ago after senior Government officials were awarded pay rises of up to 80% while the lowest paid public servants, who earn as little as $47 a week, received rises as low as 1%.
More than 1400 teachers have joined the strike along with doctors, nurses and other health workers, protesting the widening gap between the rich and the poor in Tonga. Government Ministers in Tonga earn over $100,000 a year while a police officer is paid $50 a week.
“There is strong support for the strike in Tonga with 10,000 people marching on the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa last week, in the country’s largest protest rally ever,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President, Colin Tarr.
“NZEI members have been asked by the Tongan teachers’ union, the Friendly Islands Teachers Association, if we will support the strike, and we are happy to do so.”
“The NZEI National Executive has agreed to make a contribution to help the Tongan teachers, who have begun their fourth week of strike action,” says Colin Tarr.
The Tongan teachers and their union, FITA, have been at the forefront of the action over the massively unfair distribution of the pay rises among Tonga’s public servants. FITA played a key role in the formation of the new Tongan public servants union, the Public Service Association.
“NZEI members have no hesitation in supporting the action being taken by the Tongan teachers, health workers and public servants for a fairer distribution of pay among the workers employed by the government in Tonga,” says Colin Tarr.