Sugar mill criticised after a worker is burnt
A workers' union says the Fiji Sugar Corporation is putting profits before safety after one worker died and another fell into a tank of boiling liquid.
A Fiji union says the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) is putting profits before safety following two recent accidents at a sugar mill in which one worker died and another fell into a tank of boiling liquid.
One worker is in a stable condition in Lautoka Hospital after he suffered burns at the Rarawai sugar mill in Ba last Thursday while he was cleaning a tank.
The assistant general secretary of the Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union, Mikaele Mataka, , told Daniela Maoate-Cox safety procedures were not followed and the Corporation shows a complete disregard for its workers.
MIKAELE MATAKA: First of all the guy was not trained to do the job, why was he told to do the job? Because you need special training for that and also the people that were supposed to have checked the work place before he goes in, they didn't do the checking, like the chief chemist and the plumber. They need to see if the water is cool enough for them to start doing the job, that wasn't done.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: Are you in contact with the man who was burned?
MM: No, my branch officials from Ba relayed this message to me, my branch delegates.
DM-C: Well why hasn't the proper training been put in place here?
MM: Well that's a good question to ask FSC. And if they say that they have done the training, if they can give us a report or documentation of the training that was done, who conducted it, who was present, and if the people had signed the training. None of that was done, if that has been done we have to question them, where is the report of the training done and who attended it? And who was the facilitator?
DM-C: Given that this incident has happened very close to another fatal accident earlier in the week, are you concerned about the safety standards at sugar mills?
MM: Yeah, I was told by one of the people that was there, after the accident in BA, actually that man died on the job, they just took his body, put it on the floor, they carried on with operations. He didn't die in the hospital he died in the workplace. They just take his body out, put it on the floor, continued with the job. That's how casual they are. They don't really concern [themselves with] the welfare of the workers.
DM-C: Have you spoken to the Fiji Sugar Corporation about your concerns?
MM: We already do that yes, the general secretary has written to them about the two incidents. Even the one in Lautoka, has not been solved [for] about three years now. That's how they've been operating.
DM-C: Did you say there have been incidents over the last three years?
MM: Yeah, there was a guy that died of burns in Lautoka when one of the tanks was spilling. Actually that problem was reported by the workers a couple of years before the event (death) happened. No preventative measures were done.
DM-C: And nothing has improved in three years?
MM: Yeah, there are a lot of issues that our union delegates raise up but it's falling on deaf ears.
DM-C: So what needs to happen here?
MM: They really need to be serious about how it's treating workers. We've been asking the CEO (chairman) to come and talk to us, to the union officials, and we have only met only once and he told us he doesn't believe in our collective agreement. That was about four or five years ago, he says he only gets his directive from the Prime Minister, he doesn't care about the union. It is the union that cares about the workers and he's not wanting to talk to us, so what else can we do?
Radio New Zealand International has requested an interview with the Fiji Sugar Corporation.
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