July 18, 2013

Fiji sugar strike could cripple industry: expert

Updated Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:32pm AEST

An expert on Fiji's sugar industry says a strike by sugar workers later this year could cripple the industry, right in the middle of the cane crushing season.
The general secretary of the Sugar and General Workers Union, Felix Anthony, says his members will vote on taking industrial action, as they have not had a pay rise in seven years.
However economist and Fiji sugar industry expert, Dr Padma Lal, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program the proposed strike could have serious economic and political consequences.
"As it is, the number of farmers have been decreasing, the people have actually lost interest in planting cane," she said.
"If the mill workers were to go on strike, it will have an effect on the cane cutters, the transport workers as well as the farmers.
Dr Lal says sugar mills are not easy to run and skilled sugar workers are needed to ensure smooth operation of the mills.
"One would need to have a fairly good understanding of the whole production line," she said.
"There will also need to be fairly experienced engineers and others who could maintain the mill.
"The government could take that approach and say, 'This is an important industry and we can't actually be hostage to unions also... not be dictated to by people outside... who may not be seen to have the interest of the country at heart."

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