|Will the trucks be stopped? Sugar mill union takes ballot to strike|
The wills of sugar mill workers and that of the military dictatorship are about to be tested.
The regime's attorney general has issued a two sentence statement in response to a decision by the Fiji Sugar and General Workers’ Union to file a legal notice to hold a secret ballot to authorize a strike.
It follows ongoing violations by the Fiji Sugar Corporation under the labour law and the snubbing of previous collective bargaining agreements.
As noted by the International Trade Union Congress, mill workers have not had a pay raise in seven years and many live in poverty.
|In among Golan soldiers as Khaiyum threatens to use military at mills|
In a statement the regime indicates it will not tolerate strike action.
STATEMENT FROM THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AIYAZ-SAYED KHAIYUM
There is no more important industry in Fiji than sugar cane. More than 200,000 Fijians rely on the sugar cane industry for their livelihood.
One way or another, the mills will need to continue to operate even if some people abandon their jobs.
The ITUC has condemned the threat saying FSC management has been holding meetings in all work stations in to intimidate union members not to vote and even threatened to turn their names over to the regime if they did.
The ITUC says the Khaiyum threat suggests the regime will mobilize the military as replacement labour and/or that the government will place the sugar sector under the scope of the Essential National Industries Decree.
Its general secretary, Sharan Burrow, says the ITUC takes violations of freedom of association seriously.
“This thuggish behaviour, in addition to the previous beatings, arbitrary arrests, surveillance of unionists and the wholesale gutting of the nation’s labour laws, is why workers around the world are calling for the establishment of an ILO Commission of Inquiry this year. This rogue regime must be stopped.”
The United Coalition for a Democratic Fiji is meanwhile calling on the Fiji Electricity Authority to reduce electricity charges to consumers by 30 per cent given their $75 million profit for last year.
The UFDF says the profit has been achieved at the expense of thousands of poor families who were removed from its lifeline rate following tariff restructure implemented in 2010/11.
"It is interesting to note that FEA’s profits have shot up enormously since the increased tariff rates were approved by the Commerce Commission despite widespread protests from the public.
"It is to be noted that for the financial year ended 2010 FEA reported a profit after tax of $8.5m. Yet in 2011, its profit suddenly rose to $52m and now we have an even higher profit level of $75m for 2012.
"The current high profit levels being announced by the Authority are unconscionable considering that at least 35% of our people in rural areas and outer islands remain without electricity today.'