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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 15, 2000 – Fiji’s Daily Post)---Striking nurses returned to work last night relieved that their cries for better salaries were finally endorsed by Permanent Arbitrator John Apted in his ruling yesterday.

This decision, based largely on the Public Services Commission’s initial submission, effectively ended a two and a half day strike by the nurses.

The accepted recommendations had initially been put forward by the PSC but had been rejected by the nurses.

The Arbitration has awarded the FNA an increased rate of salary, back pay to be paid on or before June 15 and also other recommendations set out in the report of the Salary Review team.

Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry said he hoped that the nurses would return to their duties.

"The award is based on the recommendations made by PSC and this is something we had for the nurses from March. All we needed was enough time to work on the proposal, but nurses didn't want to accept it."

Mr. Chaudhry thanked all the nurses and volunteers who worked during the critical negotiating time.

When asked if the industrial action by the FNA will set a precedent for other unions to do the same, Mr. Chaudhry said that he believed that all unions will act with great responsibility while making such decisions.

PSC secretary Anare Jale said the government was happy with the outcome of the arbitration and the manner in which it had been handled by the Permanent Arbitrator, given the circumstances of the dispute and its effect on the National Health Service.

"The award basically incorporated all of government's submission and this is evident of the quality and rationale in government's proposal," Mr. Jale said.

He said the award reconfirmed government's position in the matter and it was only a matter of time when new salaries for nurses would be paid as envisaged by the government.

Mr. Jale also pointed out the government's ability to address difficult and unreasonable demands as the arbitration clearly meant a victory for them.

"At certain stages of the arbitration, when difficult situations were encountered, government capably maintained its stand as mandated to it originally.

"At no time was this position threatened by the submissions from the Fiji Nursing Association. And the outcome of the award was almost predictable."

Mr. Jale said Health permanent Secretary Luke Rokovada agreed that there was no need for the nurses to resort to a strike and put the public at risk.

"It was just a matter of them having a little patience and giving government enough time to work out a reasonable pay structure and make certain adjustments in the processing of the new pay," Mr. Rokovada explained.

"The government was always ready to address their issues but the nurses were not prepared to listen."

FNA general secretary Elina Dulakiverta also expressed relief, saying that the nurses had achieved the purpose of their strike.

"I am happy with the results and feel that the struggle had been fruitful."

When asked if FNA was prepared to face proposed legal action from the Ministry of Labour, for breaching an order to call off the unlawful strike, Ms. Dulakiverta said that she was prepared for it.

"We will face whatever comes across. We are fully prepared and will stand by our word."

She said that the members will return to work.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fijilive.

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