7 Mar 2007

Validity of compensation claim by Fiji miners questioned

8:05 pm on 7 March 2007

Fiji's military-backed government is questioning the legality of a compensation claim by mine workers who staged the country's longest unsettled strike.

Members of the Fiji Mine Workers Union are claiming 18 million US dollars in compensation from the government on the grounds of the inhumane treatment they received at the hands of the Emperor Gold Mining Company

The complaints relate to contaminated water that Emperor allegedly supplied to the homes the miners lived in.

The union has reportedly said that many of its members lost their lives and families were broken following the strike, which began in 1991.

Emperor locked out the strikers and employed an entirely new set of workers who were laid off last December when the company shut the mine down.

The advisor to the Prime Minister's office, Parmesh Chand, questions the claim's validity.

"Whether there is a claim that can be put against the state is of course debatable as well as an issue which needs to be tested in law. But I'm not aware of any claim as such."

Mr Chand says the government's immediate concern is to ensure that those who were laid off in December receive redundancy payments or outstanding compensation.