SPURNED FIJI NURSES SEEK WORK ABROAD

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By Riteshni Singh

Special to Pacific Islands Report

HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, Aug. 24) – Some nurses in Fiji are looking for jobs overseas after the government failed to meet their grievances in the wake of a 16-day strike.

The nurses ended the strike on Aug. 8 and resumed duties in hospitals and health centers around the country.

Fiji Nursing Association (FNA) General Secretary Kuini Lutua said some association nurses have been approached by recruiting agents.

"There have been approaches done to FNA to be part of a recruiting agent for them but that is against our principle," Lutua said. "Our objective of this association is to look after the welfare of nurses to work here; if they are not satisfied working here then they can look for work abroad."

Luta declined to reveal how many nurses are currently seeking work abroad.

She noted that although the nurses were on strike for 16 days, the interim government failed to look into their grievances.

Nurses were demanding that a five percent pay cut to be restored and that pay raises spelled out in an earlier agreement be adhered to.

"In those documents, working conditions and salary for nurses should have improved by about 27 percent, which relates back to arrears from 2003," she said.

Lutua said the nurses were also not happy with the 12-hour work shifts that the government wanted to introduce rather than the normal eight- hour shifts.

She said it is now evident that the interim regime will not look after the nurses' interests.

Meanwhile the Minister for Public Service, Public Enterprises and Public Sector Reforms, Poseci Bune, expressed relief that the nurses returned to work.

"The nurses could lose out substantially on the interim government’s offer of 60 new junior sister posts with a 12 per cent pay increase," he said.

Bune said the nurses should hold their leaders accountable after losing substantially not only in terms of pay but other offers.

"They lost substantially not only in terms of pay," he said. "I had offered them an alternative which was the creation of 60 junior sister posts that would have meant advancement opportunities for the nurses.

Bune said the government is willing to restore one per cent of the five percent pay cut imposed in March this year.

He described the nurses’ strike as ineffective, disorganized and poorly conceived.

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