FIJI MERCENARIES MUST BE TREATED FAIRLY

Editorial

Fiji Times

SUVA, Fiji (Mar. 2) - The conflicting signals sent out by a recruiting agency in Kuwait is cause for worry.

It becomes extremely important that the recruitment of our people to work in various locations in the Middle East be treated with the greatest caution.

It becomes important and it is in their best interest that any job deals or contracts, which affect them should be finalized here before they leave our shores. They should sign all the relevant documents on work conditions and remuneration preferably in the presence of Labour Ministry officials or lawyers before they depart.

What is happening now is that most of them do not know what they are letting themselves in for until they reach their overseas destination. Only then do they find out that what they were promised before departure is not exactly what is there in store for them.

The sad thing is that they find themselves in a situation in which they cannot return home without having to work to earn some money first.

While the Labour Ministry has been closely monitoring what has been going on for the past year, it has to be more vigilant to safeguard the welfare of those who are being hired.

Let's face it, most of these men seeking employment in the Middle East are not that well educated or informed to properly understand what they are letting themselves in for.

Groups from churches and village communities are arriving in droves to fill in application forms. The lure of good pay and, to some extent, the opportunity to visit a foreign land, which they have read so much about in the Holy Bible is simply overwhelming for many.

The general election is just around the corner and any administration would be foolish not to be seen to be supporting such job-seeking campaigns to keep these people, most of them of voting age, happy. But they deserve a fair deal.

Labour Minister Kenneth Zinck is not saying much about the purpose of his trip to the Middle East this weekend but it might explain what the Government's stand in all this is about.

For the men, the elections are furthest from their minds right now as they choose to leave the comfort of their homes and communities to find jobs so that they support their families. We face a big unemployment problem and the opportunity to earn some money even in places thousands of miles from home is greatly appreciated.

No doubt these men, most of them breadwinners, are desperate to find jobs. They understand the big sacrifice they are making in terms of the welfare of their family members while they are away from home. They reserve the right to be treated with respect and fairness.

March 3, 2005

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