31 Jul 2013

NZ unions back Fiji sugar workers

1:31 pm on 31 July 2013

New Zealand's Council of Trade Unions is adding its voice to those offering support to Fiji's sugar workers, who have voted to take industrial action

The Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union has complained to international labour organisations about what it describes as intimidation during a ballot over possible strike action at the nation's sugar mills.

Police and military personnel were stationed at polling places and the employer, the Fiji Sugar Corporation, is said to have held work place meetings urging workers not to vote.

The Secretary of the New Zealand's Council of Trade Unions, Peter Conway, believes it is vital that the union movement as an independent representative of workers flourishes in Fiji.

"That's certainly an uphill struggle at the moment with the decrees against them and a military government. So that's why we are acutely aware that workers taking strike action in this environment is going to be a pressured situation. So it's important that sugar workers union knows that they have got broader international support."

The British Trade Union council has also expressed solidarity with the sugar workers in Fiji and in a letter makes general references to long standing links between the mills and the British unionists who refine the sugar.

Fiji's Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has said the government's concern was for the 200,000 Fijians who depended on the industry for their livelihood and he highlighted the investment made by the government to rescue the industry from collapse.

The leadership of the Fiji Sugar Workers Union says no date has been set for any industrial action and it hopes the Fiji Sugar Corporation will agree to talks to resolve differences.