Editor's Picks

Other Sports

Pukapuka saga: Claims of unpaid wages

Tuesday 25 February 2020 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Outer Islands


Pukapuka saga: Claims of unpaid wages
MP Tingika Elikana. 20021441

Dismissed Pukapuka government employees cry foul over unpaid wages.

There are claims more government employees on Pukapuka have been left stranded with no money due to unpaid wages.

These employees have also claimed that they have been omitted from the part time clean up rotated roster on the island.

Yeutu Yeutu, the agricultural officer on the northern group island is one of the four civil workers who was terminated from his job.

Now he says his wife and children “kare ratou e tutaki ana,” – have not been paid for their hours working for the island’s beautification project.

Yesterday Pukapuka Island Council member Lito Tinokura confirmed that people had not been paid for their hours of “tama matara” (road side clean ups).

Yeutu Yeutu claims members of his family are also no longer on the clean-up roster that is usually rotated between the three villages.

He believes that these further actions were linked to his dismissal and suspension of five other workers last week.

On February 5th and 10th, Uwitai Akima, Tipereta Vave, Yeutu Yeutu and Ngarima Nooroto received letters of terminations from Pukapuka island executive officer Pio Ravarua. Yekitea Pakeretio and Tere William were suspended for a month.

The opposition Democratic Party MP William Heather earlier alleged the six were sacked because they were members of the Demos, at the direction of visiting government MP Tingika Elikana.

Elikana has rejected the allegation he influenced the island executive officer, blaming “bad politics” for the furore. “The powers to fire an employee island staff is vested in the executive officer … one can assume that if he has taken that step, it’s a serious step.”

Letters dismissing these government workers spell out detailed failings, including laziness, backchat, threatening behaviour and verbal abuse.

But Yeutu was surprised at allegations in his letter dating back to 2017.

“Kua oti ia matou i te akatikatika (we have already dealt with these matters),” he said.

This is the first time something like this has happened on the island, said Yeutu.

Over the years every one has shared employment to the families so each one has some sort of income to help out, he added.

Another terminated worker Uwitai Akima likened the action and decision of the island’s executive officer Pio Ravarua as “trying to beat down the people”.

Akima while explaining the way of life on the island said “usually a family member of each ‘ngutuare’ (household) will hold a government job, this makes it fair for all the other families”.

For some of the terminated and suspended workers, they were the sole earners for their family, he said.

Akima said he was the only income earner, now no one in the family is working and his wife is worried and terribly upset.

Tipereta Vave, who was a machine operator, is also the sole earner in his family and believes he was unfairly terminated.

He said the termination has affected his entire family.

“What do we survive on, how do we pay our bills?” Vase said.