13 Aug 2003

Fiji's Labour minister wants impasse over strike broken

5:18 pm on 13 August 2003

The Fiji government is taking action over the strike by 600 employees at the state-owned Pacific Fishing company's cannery.

The Labour minister, Kenneth Zinck, is ordering both the union and the management to the table in an attempt to break the impasse.

Six trade unionists were arrested and questioned over the strike, which Mr Zinck declared illegal but the employees are still refusing to return to work.

Mr Zinck says the union and the management need to begin talking again.

"I think they should put the cards on the table on both sides, they need to compromise, both the company and the union leaders, because once you dialogue and compromise you may come to a settlement, if that fails only then will the abitrator then come into the picture."

Kenneth Zinck, the Labour minister.

The acting general-secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Rajeshwar Singh, says they welcome the minister's move because the management has been intransigent.

So far, we have not found them very forthcoming, last week we had this negotiations with the management, they insisted to keep a policeman there with them so I think there has to be a change in attitude by the management, and if that is so then there should be no problem coming to some very good agreement.

Rajeshwar Singh.

The employees are protesting, among other things, the failure of the Pacific Fishing Company to pay their National Provident Fund contributions.

It's reported that the workers haven't had a pay rise in 20 years and an arbitration award handed down this year hasn't been implemented.