Party: Trade Unions


After the war, though the Protectorate developed a system of local government, there were still no trade unions or political parties. Solomon Islands workers were forbidden to strike under the terms of the indenture contracts most worked under until indenture was abolished in 1945. The first strike came on 6 August 1965 when sixty-five government workers stopped work at Tulagi to protest their pay and work conditions. Those who refused to return to work were repatriated to their home villages. In late 1960 and early 1961 there was an indigenous movement to form a union on Malaita among port and plantation workers, but the first formal trade unions were formed by the Protectorate's Labour Department. The British Solomon Islands General Workers Union was registered in 1961 and had considerable success during 1962-1963 in negotiating wage increases for government and plantation workers. As part of this, for two weeks in October-November 1962 labourers and classified government workers stopped work over wages disputes, and were joined by employees of several commercial companies in sympathy with them. On 6 November, the government agreed to improve wages and conditions. The union had a substantial membership by 1963, when it was split into the British Solomon Islands Building and General Workers' Union (BSIB&GWU), and the British Solomon Islands Plantation and Farmers' Association. Another union, the British Solomon Islands Ports and Copra Workers' Union (BSIP&CWU), was formed in 1963-1964 with Joel Kikolo as Secretary and Johnson Olisikulu as Treasurer.

In September of 1964, the BSIB&GWU began negotiations for further wage increases, requesting a basic wage of £15 per month (a nearly 100 percent increase). On 23 March 1965, an agreement was reached for an intermediate wage of £8.15.6 (6/9d. per day), which the Union accepted, but on 1 April an unofficial strike broke out among government labourers and classified workers. In Honiara, 760 workers, including several hundred private sector and government workers, went on strike, while 230 government workers abstained. The strike spread for a few days to Yandina, Munda and Gizo. Nineteen men were arrested on 1 April and charged with not maintaining essential services or unlawful assembly. They received gaol sentences of between six weeks and three months. The Honiara strike continued until 15 April.

A conference was held from 29 October to 1 November 1965 between the BSIP&CWU and the BSIB&GWU, but no finite decisions were made because neither union had any subscribed members. Both unions went into temporary suspension, although Johnson Olisikulu (q.v.) was supported by the Protectorate Government to attend the British Trades Unions Congress in January 1966 and studied in London and Scotland to learn the duties of shop stewards and union clerks. On his return, Olisikulu organised the amalgamation of the two unions as the British Solomon Islands Workers Union (BSIWU), which seems to have disappeared quickly. (NS 7 Nov. 1966)

After the BSIP&CWU, the BSIB&GWU and the BSIWU were liquidated, there was no further union development in the second half of the 1960s. The only additions were the Teachers Associations formed in various districts during the 1960s; the Malaita Teachers' Association was formed in March 1966. The next union was the British Solomon Islands General Workers' Union begun by Peter Salaka (q.v.) in July 1971, which achieved nothing and had its registration cancelled in 1974. (AR 1974, 23; NS 15 Aug. 1971) Three other unions were created in 1974-1975, none of them with full-time officers: the Solomon Islands Public Servants' Association, the government Non-Established Workers' Union, and the Guadalcanal Plains General Workers' Union. The first long-term trade union initiated by Solomon Islanders was the Solomon Islands General Workers' Union, later known as the Solomon Islands National Union of Workers, which was registered in 15 July 1975. (NS 15 June 1965) One problem was that public servants were forbidden from taking an active role in any political party, which silenced many of the best-educated voices. (NS Sept. 1956, 15 Nov. 1962, 15 Jan. 1964, 31 Mar. 1965, 15 Apr. 1965, 15 Nov. 1965, 7 Feb. 1966, 21 Mar. 1966, 7 Apr. 1966; AR 1965, 11; Tuhanuku 1983, 118-120; Paia 1981, 1983; Naitoro 1993, 133-135)

Published resources


  • Paia, Warren A., Rural Solomon Islands and the Role of Traditionally-Based Socio-Economic Institutions, Institute of Social and Administrative Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva, 1981. Details

Book Sections

  • Paia, Warren A., 'Traditionally-Based Associations', in Peter Larmour;Sue Tarua (ed.), Solomon Islands Politics, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva, 1983, pp. 141-145. Details
  • Tuhanuku, Joses, 'Trade Unions and Politics', in Peter Larmour;Sue Tarua (ed.), Solomon Islands Politics, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva, 1983, pp. 117-132. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Annual Reports (AR), 1896-1973. Details


  • Naitoro, John H., 'The Politics of Development in 'Are 'are, Malaita', MA thesis, University of Otago, 1993. Details