August 21, 2013

Republika Facebook: BREAKING NEWS: Soldiers enter Lautoka sugar mill

Rep├║blika

A union for sugar workers says its members who have voted to go on strike have been threatened and intimidated culminating in the arrival at the Lautoka mill today of two truckloads of soldiers, ostensibly to inspect the facilities there.

Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union (FSGWU) general secretary Felix Anthony condemned what he says were threats by soldiers that those who went on strike “would not be allowed to return to work and would be dealt with by the military should they go on strike.”

He also condemned the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) for failing to enter negotiations with the union over the pay raise demands and accused the FSC of trying to split union solidarity by giving leave to tradesmen of another union to begin work at midnight, when the FSC is believed to assume the strike could begin.

“This is outright plain intimidation of workers who have voted to take strike action,” Anthony said in a statement this afternoon. “The Union calls on the military not to interfere with workers’ rights and understand that the workers and their Union are merely following the law and exercising their right to go on strike because [Fiji Sugar Corporation] is unwilling to enter into dialogue.

The FSC and union have been at loggerheads leading to the balloting of FSGWU members who gave a mandate to strike on 29 July. 67.5 per cent of FSGWU members took the secret ballot with a landslide mandate - 90 per cent in favour - for a strike.

Viti Levu’s three sugar mills are in full swing, reaching their peak crushing period. Crushing is expected to end first at Penang on 30 September, followed by Lautoka on 13 October, then 26 October at Rarawai.

In his statement Anthony said, “FSC management also continues to warn workers of the consequences of a strike. While a few workers are scared of taking action because of the threats, a large majority are prepared for strike.

“Tradesmen, who belong to another Union, today have been given leave to attend to work at midnight when the FSC appears to think the strike will take place. This is a tactic used by the FSC to pitch one Union against another as used in the past. The Union again calls on FSC to stop this shameful behaviour and act responsibly and follow the laws.

“These laws obligate the employer to negotiate with the Union in good faith. This is the best way forward."

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