QARASE DEFENDS PAYMENT TO FIJI MINE WORKERS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 20) – The FJ$300,000 [US$171,000] given by the Fiji caretaker government to workers at the Vatukoula mine is not a vote buying tactic, caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said.

[PIR editor’s note: According to PIR news files, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on Tuesday after continuous meetings held between the mine workers union, Emperor Mines, and Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. The Prime Minister stated that a redundancy package for those not re-employed is to be negotiated between the workers union and the mining company, and the Fiji government would source out FJ$300,000 paid to the Workers Relief Fund. Vatukoula gold mine is located in the northwest region of Viti Levu Island in Fiji.]

He said the laying off of workers at the mine was a social problem and the Government did what was best to resolve the impasse.

The subsidy payment would ensure that workers received the equivalent of their weekly pay until they are reinstated over the next two months, Qarase said.

He said the money was sourced from the 2006 budget by re-allocating funds that were already approved by Parliament.

Meanwhile, employees of the mine were happy that they had something to fall back on following the caretaker government's intervention.

The employees were briefed by the union yesterday. They said the memorandum of understanding signed on Tuesday and which provided for the weekly pay and other benefits, was a relief.

Emperor Gold Mine announced the redundancy of 1,800 workers last week as part of a corporate reorganization.

It said 1,500 workers would be re-employed progressively over two months.

Union secretary Satish Chandra, in an hour-long meeting with his members, said they would demand a good payout for members.

April 21, 2006

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com .

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