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SUVA, Fiji (April 23, 1998 - Fiji Times/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Today's nationwide strike will go ahead after Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka last night dramatically intervened to halt talks between the unions and his ministers, the Fiji Times reports.

The unions expect 40,000 people to take part in today's protest.

The army will be on standby to ensure that essential services are not disrupted.

Areas of concern ate telecommunications, electricity, fire, water supply, health and education services.

After being briefed by the ministers who took part in yesterday's talks with the Fiji Trades Union Congress and the Fiji Employers Federation, Mr. Rabuka confirmed that there would be no further talks while the unions' strike threat was in force.

Earlier, the Fiji government team had brought to cabinet a draft unsigned agreement that called for the wage order to be abandoned, redundancies to be regarded as a last option only and the check off system to be enforced. The Fiji Employers Federation was not prepared to accommodate the draft agreement.

Mr. Rabuka said that since the wage order notice period had expired there was nothing for the unions to protest against.

He said the redundancies and check off clauses could only be negotiated by unions and employers.

Mr. Rabuka said he was unhappy with the way the unions had deliberately exploited and manipulated talks by including issues that were not part of their original concerns.

Solicitor-General Nainendra Nand told cabinet yesterday that because the order was not in force the protest had no legal basis. But Mr. Rabuka said prosecution would be up to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Title -- 1307 ECONOMY: Fiji in grip of national strike Date -- 23 April 1998 Byline -- Staff reporters Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Fiji Times, 23/4/98 Copyright -- Fiji Times Status -- Unabridged

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