FIJI GOVERNMENT ORDERS PROBE OF RECRUITING FIRM

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 12) – The Fiji government has ordered an inquiry into a Fiji agency recruiting Fiji nationals for jobs in the Middle East.

Cabinet ordered the inquiry, into Meridian Services Agency, on Wednesday after Labour Minister Kenneth Zinck raised concerns about the working conditions of Fiji citizens in Iraq and Kuwait.

"This issue demands urgent resolution by Meridian Services Agency due to the large number of people and families involved with some resigning from their current employment and the huge amount of money paid out for recruitment fees, passports, etc," a government statement said.

The inquiry to be conducted by the Ministry of Labour will focus on Meridian Services Agency, the company hiring men for Kuwait-based Public Warehousing Company (PWC).

Meridian is operated by Timoci Lolohea, who came under fire from disgruntled potential recruits waiting to be called up. He recently set up an office in Kuwait and will be there indefinitely, his staff said.

The men recruited by Meridian are on contract or sub-contract for American companies helping rebuild Iraq.

The agency took about FJ$2.25 million (US$1.3 million) from some 15,000 men wanting jobs in Kuwait. (It charged a minimum of FJ$150 for applications.)

Zinck's report to Cabinet on his fact-finding mission to the Middle East highlighted frustration of the men waiting for jobs.

He said PWC human resources director Nasser Obaid told him the company wanted to recruit only 1,500-2,000 people from Fiji over the next two years. Meridian, however, has signed up 15,000 men.

Zinck, who visited Kuwait in March, said 200 people are there without contracts.

He said the company should move quickly to secure contracts for these people.

Zinck's 10-day trip included visits to the parent companies of Global Risk Strategies, Armour Group and Control Risks Group in London and Triple Canopy in Chicago.

May 13, 2005

Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

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