August 23, 2013

Soldiers at the mill

Repeka Nasiko
Friday, August 23, 2013

SOLDIERS were sent to the Lautoka sugar mill on Wednesday not to intimidate mill workers against strike action but to safeguard the government's investment.
The comment was made by RFMF Land Force Commander Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga yesterday.
He refuted claims by Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union general secretary Felix Anthony that a truck-load of soldiers went to the mill to intimidate the workers.
"First of all, we did not send our soldiers to the Lautoka mill to scare or intimidate workers that were present there," he said.
"We went to the mill to safeguard government's investment in the sugar industry.
"We all know that the industry has been suffering for a while and the government spent a lot of time and money to turn the industry around.
"And just as it is turning around, this sort of action is taking place, so we want to ensure that the safety and security of that investment is maintained."
Lt-Col Tikoitoga added the military was wary of the proposed strike action by the mill workers.
In a statement, Mr Anthony expressed his disappointment at the presence of the soldiers at the mill on Wednesday.
"This is outright plain intimidation of workers who have voted to take strike action," he said.
"The union calls on the military not to interfere with the workers' rights and understand that the workers and their union are merely following the law and exercising their right to go on strike because FSC is unwilling to enter into dialogue."
When contacted by this newspaper FSC general manager Abdul Khan would not to comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Western Commander Joeli Cawaki said it was news to him that military personnel would be involved in the mill.

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