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Reconsider Fiji travel, union urges Australians

The Australian Transport Workers' Union has called on all Australian visitors — Fiji's biggest tourism source market — to reconsider visiting Fiji over the coming weeks and months.

The biggest transport workers union in Australia has also called on the Australian Government to put pressure on the Fijian Government because the Air Terminal Services dispute was a serious issue.

The call was made in a strongly-worded statement issued Thursday by TWU national secretary and chair of the International Transport Workers' Federation road transport section, Tony Sheldon.

“This dispute is serious and is already affecting operations at airports with reports that airline passengers are being asked to bring their own food on board,” he said.

“Travellers to Fiji from Australia need to be aware of this before booking flights or accommodation. The Transport Workers' Union of Australia is fully supportive of these locked-out workers over bullying and intimidation by Air Terminal Services.

“For 11 years, they have endured a freeze on wages despite living costs going up.

“When they take a stand and demand their rights, the response from Air Terminal Services is a lock-out.

“This is a disgraceful way to treat hardworking transport workers and shareholders, since the employees own 49 per cent of the company.

“The Federal Government needs to support these workers in their fight for basic human rights and ensure workers are not sent from Australia to replace them.”

The Fiji Times forwarded the statement to Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Jone Usamate.

“We will continue to focus our efforts on getting the parties to resolve this issue,” Usamate said.

Meanwhile, A Terminal Services workers are disappointed about what they claim is the Prime Minister's "lack of interest" in their struggle.

Mahesh Chand, one of the 250 workers embroiled in a dispute with management, said he felt the PM was not interested in what was happening with them.

“It's six days now and we haven't heard anything from the CEO of this country,” he said.

“We keep hearing of the PM saying that Government cares for all citizens but we haven't seen him show any care for the problems we are facing with the company.”

Federated Airline Staff Association national secretary Vilikesa Niumataiwalu said the workers felt like they were being treated “like a step-child”.

“The sentiments expressed by Mahesh is the same for every worker who has grievances about the way they have been treated for years.”

National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad, who visited the workers Thursday, also called on the PM to intervene.

“This is a Government that does not believe in dialogue, even though the PM goes around the world and talks about the importance of talanoa,” he claimed.

“The PM should declare the lockout illegal and get his Employment Minister to learn about what is and isn't illegal.”

Unity Fiji Party leader Savenaca Narube, who also visited the ATS workers, expressed similar sentiments.

“The vanua came here, church ministers came here, the political parties came here but the only person that is missing is the Prime Minister,” he said.

The impasse between ATS workers and management has entered its seventh day with no resolution in sight.

ATS Employees Trust spokesperson Manasa Ratuvili said the workers were very disappointed that the PM had not visited them.

“We have always heeded Fiji's call and have always been here during floods, cyclones or even times of national crisis,” he said.

“But when we are in need, the PM is nowhere to be seen.”

Permanent secretary at the Prime Minister's Office Yogesh Karan said the PM could not intervene because the issue was being handled by two very capable ministers — Minister Responsible for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Jone Usamate.


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