FIJI'S UNIONS VOW TO PRESS AHEAD WITH NATIONWIDE STRIKE

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SUVA, Fiji (April 20, 1998 - Radio Australia)---Fiji's Trades Union Congress says it will go ahead with a nationwide strike this week.

Radio Australia's Pacific correspondent, Richard Dinnen, reports the unions want the government to withdraw an order limiting wage rises.

"The order, limiting wage rises to three per cent this year, was due to take effect on Friday. The Fiji government offered to delay implementing it, to allow further consultations with the unions. The order has still not been implemented, but the Trades Union Congress says that's not enough -- negotiations can only proceed if the order is withdrawn.

"Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and Finance Minister Jim Ah Koy have made it plain it will not be withdrawn, saying the recent 20 percent devaluation of Fiji's dollar will be pointless unless wages are controlled.

"A nation-wide strike is planned for Thursday, which is expected to bring the country to a halt. It it's understood even essential services will be affected."

Meantime, the Prime Minister says while the wage order will not be withdrawn, the government is prepared to negotiate on how it will be implemented.

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