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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 26) – Some 200 casual labourers sub-contracted by Emperor Gold Mine in Fiji were laid off last week and a further 100 have been forced to take seven-days leave as part of cost-cutting measures.

The action was taken amid a financial crisis at EGM as gold production continues to fall.

The 100 workers of Philip Shaft who were asked to take seven-days leave last week were back at work on Monday.

Fiji Mineworkers Union general secretary Satish Chandra said the workers who were laid off were not given any packages because they were part of the sub-contractor, Loloma Trading.

"We cannot negotiate any package with the management as we need 51 per cent support in order to negotiate. Out of the 200 workers, only 21 are union members and that's too little," he said.

Mr Chandra said the management had assured workers it would discuss the financial strife with the Government, seeking approval for a reduction in tax.

EGM acting general manager Tony Woodward said, as at May 1, there were 1,960 Emperor employees and 184 contractors at the Vatukoula operations.

"Contractors employed work both underground and on the surface. Some of these workers have been stood down temporarily while the Philip Shaft winder was out of operation," he said. He said re-engagement had already started and some employees of the Philip Shaft took accumulated annual leave while the majority were re-deployed to other sections.

Among the issues of concern to the mine is the price of diesel.

Mr Woodward said EGM paid for its diesel based on the American dollar price and in the past 12 months the price paid had increased from US$37 ($FJ62.23) to US$57 ($95.87) per barrel, an increase of more than 50 per cent.

"The company is working with key stakeholders including the Government to seek solutions to the problems including the cost of power generation," he said.

An example was the poor heavy vehicle availability and delays to the Philip Shaft deepening project, which was commissioned nine months behind schedule.

May 26, 2005

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