28 Dec 2017

Fiji airport service calls on police to evict locked-out workers

6:57 pm on 28 December 2017

A union spokesperson for workers locked out at Fiji's main international airport says management is now asking the police to evict workers from the site.

Around 250 catering, baggage handling and engineering workers at Nadi airport have been affected by the industrial action.

The employer, Air Terminal Services (ATS), said the workers were suspended due to illegal strike action.

ATS chief executive Hare Mani said the meeting was illegal strike action as the workers did not go through due process, and that's why they were suspended.

The affected workers have been sitting outside the airport peacefully hoping to get back into work.

Federated Airline Staff Association national secretary Vilikesa Naulumatua said mediation attempts had resulted in an impasse. He said ATS management was now trying to break the workers' resolve.

"We have been approached by the police. They wish to evict us from here. We are saying to them we are not striking, we have been locked out."

"The powers that be, they try and intimidate us and get us to move from here. But we are staying put, we are seeking legal counsel on this and also trying to contact those in authority to try and understand our situation,' he said.

Meawhile, the Fiji NGO Coalition on Human Rights says locked-out workers at Nadi airport have also been denied drinking water and access to toilets by the ATS.

The coalition spokesperson Shamima Ali said they visited workers to give support and show solidarity.

She said management has shown total disregard for the care and the well-being of workers who are also 49 percent shareholders of the company.

"They have asked the water authority of Fiji to shut off the water supply to them. They're not allowed to use the wash room facilities, the toilets, and they're all out there reporting for work."

"Some women have had to send their children away because they couldn't make ends meet, so they've had to give their children away to other relatives which is very very sad," she said.

Fiji Airways and Air New Zealand at Nadi International Airport

Fiji Airways and Air New Zealand at Nadi International Airport Photo: Alex Perrottet/RNZ

Australian Transport Workers Union discouraging tourists from visiting Fiji because of safety concerns at Nadi airport

The union's national secretary Tony Sheldon expected the industrial dispute between ATS and its workers could go on for some time.

He said the workers had brought legitimate concerns to the attention of ATS and in return had been illegally locked out of work.

Mr Sheldon said unskilled and unvetted workers had been brought in to provide baggage handling, catering and engineering services at Fiji's largest international gateway.

He said this presented security and safety issues for travellers.

"Definitely don't book a flight. If you're thinking of going to Fiji, this could go on for many weeks and even months.

"With the militant approach from the government and the determination from local community to stand up for their rights, you don't really want to be in the middle of that sort of confrontation that is developing."

"And for those that have booked flights, seriously consider getting your money back. This is putting yourself at risk and certainly many others," he said.

Air Niugini and Fiji Airways parked at Nadi International Airport in Fiji

Air Niugini and Fiji Airways parked at Nadi International Airport in Fiji Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

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