22 Aug 2003

Fiji chiefs intervene in cannery strike

5:21 pm on 22 August 2003

Traditional chiefs from the Fiji island of Ovalau have intervened in a strike at the state-owned tuna cannery at Levuka and demanded the dismissal of its top executives.

The Fiji Sun reports that 20 chiefs have signed a petition handed to the chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, the vice president Ratu Jope Seniloli, and the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase.

They are demanding the dismissal of the chief executive of the Pacific Fishing Company, Mitieli Baleivanualala, his assistant Jone Lako and the board chairman, Dhansuklal Bhika.

Several hundred cannery workers have been on strike over pay and working conditions handed down in an arbitration award this year but not yet honoured by the company.

The strike has been declared illegal by the minister for labour, Kenneth Zinck.

A spokesman for the chiefs, Mesake Drauniatu, says people on the island are facing many problems because of the unresolved dispute and they have no confidence left in the top management of the company.

But Mr Baleivanualala says chiefs should not be involved in industrial disputes.