9 Feb 2010

Legal advisor claims Fiji mine workers have legitimate case

7:59 pm on 9 February 2010

A legal advisor to the Fiji Mine Workers Union says it's shocking that the concerns of more than 300 miners have not been addressed after almost two decades on strike.

About 375 workers at the Vatukoula Gold Mine have been striking since 1991 over what they say are poor working conditions, substandard housing and water.

Their case has now been referred to the International Labour Organisation and the Human Rights Council.

Their legal advisor Dr Shaista Shameem says successive governments have said the strike was illegal, but she believes they have a legitimate grievance.

"Its one of those of things that should never have been allowed to go on for that long, and I think its because they have been very powerless over time and also where the mine is, its fairly isolated. So its been very difficult for them to bring this to the attention of the public, but there is a lot of public sympathy for their plight."

Dr Shameem says reports have shown that conditions at the mine constituted a human rights abuse, although she believes they have improved for the current workers under its new owners.