July 25, 2007

Nurses strike in first test of regime's hold on power

As of midnight, nurses around the country have walked off their jobs after a failed attempt yesterday afternoon by the military to bribe the nurses with promotions for 60 senior nurses.

Kudos to the nurses unions for refusing to be intimidated by the junta and standing their ground. In contrast to the nurses, the FPSA made a big song and dance about the pay cut and other issues and was actually the first union to file a strike notice, but in the end didn't follow through on all its threats.

Today, the military junta will experience the first real public test of its existence. While everyone will agree that nurses provide an essential service, this strike should make Bainimarama and his cohorts sit up and smell the dissent.

If anything, this will be the first time since the coup that an organized protest against the junta will take place.

How pathetic the interim public service minister Poseci Bune sounded when he lamented the state of the economy as the reason for it being impossible to restore the five percent pay cut on civil servants. Who put us in this situation in the first place?

Bula also called the deal put to the nurse yesterday afternoon as "major concessions". The union leaders promptly came out of the meeting and described it as nothing different to what has already been discussed.

Fiji has about 1600 odd nurses. About 1400 are going on strike, leaving some 200 or so nurses. What makes the junta think that offering 60 senior nurses promotions would lure them out of the strike?

And how odd it is for the junta to be putting on a brave face by saying the health services will "not be affected". Not be affected. With the permanent secretary of health Dr Waqatakirewa himself confirming about 90 percent of nurses will be on strike, how can the health service not be affected? The mind boggles.

It's heartening to see the nurses, most of them women, are not being bullied by men with guns and power making noises about what it's trying very hard to make out as a criminal act.

Realizing that the nurses had covered all their bases in filing for strike action, the interim ministers tried their best to derail the union efforts by openly saying they would cut their pay and hire new workers, implying they would sack them.

Thankfully, some could see right through the tough-talk. Pay cuts are normal for those on strike but it would be illegal to sack workers on a legitimate industrial action.

The junta also tried to discredit the efforts of the unionists by claiming their intelligence officers are reporting that criminal elements may take advantage of the strike.

A bit below the belt in trying to tarnish the nurses' industrial action but that's the military.

The junta has more coming - other unions under FICTU, including the Fijian Teachers Association and the Public Employees Union strike on Aug. 2.


Anonymous said...

Kudos to the nurses for fighting tooth and nail for what they believe in. This is what the IG need, some form of opposition to their rule and their treatment of the govt employees of this country.

Its farcical to even think that the nurses would have accepted the deal to promote 60 nurses overnight. Where were all these promotion packages when negotiations started? Are the nurses to blame for the loss of 5% from their pay packet?

Most know that nurses are amongst the lowest paying jobs currently on offer by the Govt with high expectations from those who do take up the job. Compared to other countries, who value the skills portrayed by the nurses, the Fiji Govt still has not recognised them for all that they give back to the community and to our families.

I congratulate FICTU for standing up for what they believe in as well. Lets show this IG that its about time they thought twice about self-justification!

Anonymous said...

Power to the people!!