Bus strike called off as government and FIBA negotiate

The third day of disruption for thousands of Tongatapu bus passengers has been avoided after the government and FIBA reached a proposed settlement that would allow both parties to return to the negotiation table.

The government has asked FIBA to call-off the strike and resubmit a request it previously made asking the Prime Minister  to exempt buses from consumption tax and custom duty on diesel and spare parts.

Samipeni Finau, president of the Friendly Island Bus Association (FIBA), told Kaniva News they have received a ‘positive response’ from the secretary of the Acting Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Ma’afu.

It is still unclear what exactly government would do in response to FIBA’s request other than telling them to resubmit their request but Finau said they welcome the development.

“Lord Ma’afu’s secretary told me she has on file recommendations the government is willing to reconsider our request on condition that we return to service today,” Finau said in Tongan.

“Just by the sound of what I was told it looks like there will be a bus fare rise or something along that line. But that has to be confirmed when we sit down to negotiate. We had a meeting with all FIBA members and we agreed to return to service today,” Finau added.

FIBA claimed more than 60% of what bus owners earn from bus fares goes to diesel.

Finau said during the two days strike they received mix reactions from the public.

He said many gave their supports while others asked them to return to service as the impact of the strike was greater on them and their children rather than the government.

The strike began on Monday and it continued on yesterday indenting to have been followed by more industrial action if the government would not address FIBA’s request positively, Finau said.

The Prime MInister Lord Tu'ivakano and his Deputy Hon Samiu Vaipulu are currently on overseas trips.

FIBA is the only bus association in Tonga and it has about 100 buses according to Finau.

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