24 May 2005

Fijian workers in Kuwait go on strike - report

7:20 am on 24 May 2005

Several hundred Fijians recruited for work in Kuwait are reported to have gone on strike over a pay dispute.

Radio Legend says this has been revealed by one of the strikers in Kuwait in a telephone call to his wife in Fiji.

He told her that some of them have been put on three months training and are only paid a pittance in daily allowances instead of the wages they had been promised.

The wife says many of the men now want to come back home.

The minister for labour, Kenneth Zinck, who went on a fact-finding visit to Kuwait at the end of March, says he's not surprised that Fijian workers have staged a strike.

Fiji authorities are now looking for their recruiting agent, Timoci Lolohea of Meridian Services, who has been overseas for several months with no-one at his office or home disclosing his whereabouts.

Meridian had forbidden the Fijian workers from taking their grievances to Mr Zinck while he was in Kuwait and the Fiji cabinet has ordered an inquiry into the company's recruiting procedures.

15,000 Fijians had paid US$90 each or a total of nearly US$1.4 million to Mr Lolohea as processing fees and many had resigned from their jobs to prepare to go to Kuwait.