1 Aug 2002

Fiji government promises strong action against illegal strikes

10:25 am on 1 August 2002

The Fiji government is threatening to pass legislation to jail trade union leaders and de-register unions engaged in illegal strikes.

It also wants laws to prevent unions from calling for international trade bans by their overseas counterparts.

The Daily Post says the labour minister, Kenneth Zinck, has told parliament the current laws are too lenient but they would be made much stronger with the enactment of the new Industrial Relations Bill.

Mr Zinck says there have been eight illegal strikes recently and 66 current reported trade disputes with about the same number before the permanent arbitrator.

He says in one instance earlier this year he had to travel to New Zealand and Australia to prevent their trade unions from interfering in Fiji's domestic affairs by imposing trade bans.

Meanwhile, striking employees of Fiji's national airline, Air Pacific, have returned to lwork.

This followed a request from Fiji's permanent arbitrator, John Semisi, who will hear the matters in dispute later this month.

The general seretary of the Fiji Aviation Workers Association, Attar Singh, says his members were reluctant to call off the strke until all their grievances were addressed but did so out of respect for Mr Semisi.

The airlines managing director, John Campbell, has told Radio Fiji Air Pacific has not been greatly affected by the 10 day strike.

He says Air Pacific has chartered aircraft from its major shareholder, Qantas, to operate all its services to and from Australia while other flights were operated by office staff doubling up as cabin crew and volunteers.