SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 21, 2000 – Radio Australia)---Military authorities in Fiji say they are close to reaching an agreement to end the hostage crisis, which has dragged on for 33 days.

The move comes as trade unions began feeding members who have lost their jobs because of the impact of the coup on the economy. Radio Australia correspondent Anne Barker reports it is part of a widening industrial campaign to protest against the actions of coup leader George Speight.

"More than 4,000 workers have lost their jobs since the coup over a month ago. The hostage drama has sent the economy into a nosedive. Sugar farmers have boycotted the harvest in protest, tourists are staying away in droves and other industries are suffering from trade union bans in Australia and New Zealand.

"Fiji has a minimal social security system so the international confederation of free trade unions is providing basic food stuff to those laid off. Its Asia Pacific president, Ken Douglas, says the crisis has brought significant pain to many workers.

"He said, ‘One of the initiatives that the international union movement has already taken is to develop a financial fund to give specific hardship assistance to workers involved.’

"Ann Barker, Radio Australia, Suva."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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