FIJI PUBLIC WORKERS REBUFFED, PREPARE TO STRIKE

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, July 31) - The Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions has opted to go on strike on Thursday after no deal was struck with the interim Government today. The FICTU affiliates comprise the Fijian Teachers Association, Public Employees Union and the Viti National Union of Taukei Workers.

FICTU spokesman Taniela Tabu said interim Minister for Public Service Poseci Bune told them today that Cabinet has rejected their proposal.

"Our demands were clear that Government immediately retain the compulsory retirement age at 60 for all government workers and the restoration of the 5 percent pay cut immediately. Unfortunately Cabinet has rejected this and I question this decision," Tabu said. He blamed interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry for the decision and called for his axing.

"I have only one person to blame and that is the interim Minister for Finance Mahendra Chaudhry after he claimed that he cannot meet our demands."

[PIR editor’s note: A strike by Fiji’s public workers would compound the week-old nurses’ strike and the planned teachers’ strike, all demanding restoration of pay cuts the government says it can’t afford to do.]

Tabu said that the rival umbrella union body, Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC), brokered the deal last month between the interim Government and two other public sector unions over similar grievances. He said that deal was "political" and asked "who is really in control of the Government." He said that Commodore Bainimarama should think twice about having Chaudhry in Government.

However, Bainimarama said Cabinet is running the Government and not Chaudhry. He said the stand by Cabinet would not change "with or without" Chaudhry.

Chaudhry is a union leader and the leader of the Fiji Labour Party.

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