8 Feb 2007

Chaudhry distances himself from Fiji interim government's plans to slash workers' pay and conditions

7:26 pm on 8 February 2007

Fiji's finance minister - a longtime union leader - has declined to comment on the interim government's plans to penalise public servants in a cost-cutting drive.

Mahendra Chaudhry says moves by the military-backed administration to slash pay, reduce their retirement age and withdraw from an existing pay agreement don't involve him at this point.

Fiji's public sector unions are threatening widespread strike action and are vowing to challenge the emergency decree laws in force in the country which forbid industrial action.

Mr Chaudhry - whose support base has always been the trade unions - is drafting a new budget to be released next month.

But the Labour leader says the budget is still being worked on and the cost-cutting measures are being handled by the public service commission.

"I do not wish to enter this debate at this stage, it's a matter between the PSC and the union at this point in time."

The PSA says the unions have been given no information about the interim government's financial position.