5 Aug 2005

Fiji military to help as nurses strike bites

3:37 pm on 5 August 2005

Fiji's military has gone on standby ready to help as a strike by nurses cripples health services around the country for the second day.

Radio Legend reports military spokesman, Captain Neumi Leweni, as saying although there has been no request yet, the military is ready to help.

The strike, which started yesterday, spread further today as hospital nurses were joined by those at scores of health centres in peri-urban and rural areas of Fiji.

The government has declared the strike illegal and refused to negotiate with the Fiji Nurses Association.

The labour minister, Kenneth Zinck, has referred the strike to the director of public prosecutions and police.

The association general secretary, Kuini Lutua, who has been joined by hundreds of striking nurses at their Suva headquarters, said she had been told she would be arrested this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has accused the Fiji Labour Party of using the industrial action for political mileage.

The Labour Party says it commends nurses for being brave enough to take strike action.

The FLP's Whip, Krishna Datt, says nurses have been in negotiations with the government for four years, and had finally had enough.

He says its typical of the government to blame the opposition.

"We have absolutely nothing to do with the strike but we have all the sympathies for the nurses. I think that they have been done in and they have been extremely responsible all this time and are still doing it in a responsible manner, as Im told all the essential services have been taken care of."

Fiji Labour Whip Krishna Datt