Union rep is ‘busy in the taro patch’

Monday 4 May 2020 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Economy


There is growing unhappiness at the Workers Association’s failure to support people in crisis.

Cook Islands Workers Association has come under fire for their lack of awareness and support to members affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

Some workers are complaining of their employers misusing the wage subsidy, making them work for 35 hours on the $266 a week provided by government. Employers are supposed to top up the subsidy to meet the employees’ hourly pay rate, or reduce their hours of work.

Some frustrated employees say they have nowhere to take their grievances and are concerned with the lack of awareness and support from the workers association.

Two resort workers told Cook Islands News they were unaware support was available through the association.

“If we knew about it, we would have reached out,” a worker said.

Another said: “I thought the association is only looking after the welfare of the government employees.”

Numerous efforts to get comments from the workers association president Tuaine Maunga proved futile. An email was sent to the association on Wednesday but there was no reply when this edition went to print.

One association member John Tini said Tuaine Maunga was the only person to comment, but he had been busy in his taro plantation.

Internal Affairs minister Mac Mokoroa said he was well aware of the absence of Cook Islands Workers Association in assisting those who were affected in this Covid-19 crisis.

Mokoroa said if the association had received any complaints from any of these victims affected, then he would have known of their involvement in undertaking their responsibility.

“I have not heard anything of their involvement. There were other people who came personally to me to raise similar concerns and complaints.”

Anthony Turua, the former Workers Association president, said he was disappointed that there had not been any noticeable support to workers going through this Covid-19 crisis.

“Other unions around the Pacific and globally are also coming out on the frontline to register their support for the workers that they are not being disadvantaged by the employers or labour rights,” Turua said.

Mokoroa said it was about time that the current executives took a look at themselves.

If they were unable to deliver on their obligations to help affected workers, they should quit their posts and give them to people who could deliver, he said.

Sandrina Thondoo, Internal Affairs’ director labour and consumer services, said the ministry had no mandate over the Cook Islands Workers Association as they were an independent association.

“The ministry has a consultative relationship with Cook Islands Workers Association as one of its recognised tripartite partners but we have no bearings on the way that they manage themselves.

“This being said, and in support of the minister’s position, we have been receiving complaints from CIWA members and workers in general and we have advised them that they should call the executives of CIWA for a meeting and discuss their issues with the board directly.”

Thondoo said they had been advised that a new AGM be called to discuss new nominations to the executives.

“The power to bring change and call for action lies with the members.”