FIJI'S LAID OFF MINER'S STILL AWAIT HELP

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Daily Post, Mar 22) – The Vatukoula Community Consultative Committee yesterday raised concerns at the delay in the assistance being given to the redundant mine workers.

A representative of the Committee, Josefa Sadreu, yesterday told the Fiji Daily Post that despite the assurances by both the Interim Government and Emperor Gold Mines nothing has been done for the workers yet.

"Since Emperor Gold Mine closed four months ago the ministry of Labour, Jobrox company, Mines Workers Union, EGM company and other agencies asking for submissions from the workers but so far nothing has been done for them," Sadreu stressed.

"Nothing is being done by these various agencies to resolve the problems faced by the redundant mine workers who are still sitting at home waiting for assistance."

He added that the sale of EGM was also raising questions with the workers who were still in the dark about the company’s outstanding and future responsibilities.

"We want to know whether Westech, an Australian private company led by former Emperor company man Brian Wesson will be able to shoulder the corporate, social and environmental responsibilities owed to the people of Vatukoula by Emperor.

"If any new company buys EGM then they should clear all of the problems and debts left by the company as well as reemploy all the mine workers who were made redundant," he added.

As far as the rehabilitation programme by the Ministry of Labour is concerned, Sadreu said that about 400 workers have been attending training for the past three weeks but have been told to apply for loans from banks in order to put their business plans into action.

He further stressed that after the retraining these workers should be getting funding from the $600,000 set aside for the rehabilitation programme to start their businesses and not have to go to banks because they will have to pay interest on the loans.

Sadreu added that parents were facing a lot of difficulties in sending their children to school especially in paying for the bus fares as they had no source of income.

In addition he said that the dispensary in Vatukoula has also been closed since January with no nurse or doctor based there forcing the community to travel to Tavua town for their medical needs.

"These people are struggling to survive from day to day with no regular source of income and it is disappointing that nothing has been done for them in the past four months despite assurances.

"We want the Interim Government to ensure that something is done for them as soon as possible so that these workers can continue with their lives," Sadreu further stressed.

More than 1700 mine workers were made redundant when EGM announced its closure on December 5, 2006 citing continues losses incurred by the company as a reason for shutting down its operations.

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