A hard-fought 10-year trade union battle has borne fruit with Tonga becoming the 187th member state of the International Labour Organisation.
“I would like to thank Education International (EI), Australian and New Zealand unions for continuous support and financial assistance for this vigorous, sustained campaign to achieve Tonga’s joining of the International Labour Organisation (ILO),” stressed Govind Singh, the Secretary General of the Council of Pacific Education, an umbrella organisation of education unions in the South Pacific.
He also applauded the effort of Tongan unions, particularly the Friendly Islands Teachers' Association (FITA), for their relentless decade-long campaign. The campaign included a five-week strike, and a campaign to change parliamentary representation and elect a government more in tune with workers’ needs. The current Prime Minister, Samiuela 'Akilisi P?hiva, is a university colleague of FITA President Finau Tutone, and both led the five-week revolution, he noted.
Acknowledging a “fundamental achievement for all of us”, Singh added that Tonga’s membership of the ILO shows how a “determined group of unionists in a tiny country under the rule of a monarchy can make their country finally acknowledge that workers matter and that workers’ rights are human rights”.
He thanked Finau and his team and he hopes that more workers from other sectors will be unionised and teacher unions will play a leading role in that organisation.
EI: Great news
“This is great news and the result of a long-term campaign of the Tongan unions and, in particular, FITA,” said EI President Susan Hopgood. She also congratulated Finau and other FITA leaders and its membership for their unrelenting support.