Budget 2024-25

Vatukoula strike settlement could set precedence: Usamate

July 10, 2024 4:33 pm

Independent Member of Parliament Jone Usamate [Source: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji/Facebook]

The government’s payments to former Vatukoula gold miners as a strike settlement could set a precedent.

Independent Member of Parliament Jone Usamate cautions that this action might be used as a reference for addressing future unresolved industrial disputes.

While Usamate recognizes that the substantial payment can greatly benefit the gold miners and their families, he also warns of its potential implications.

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“This payment is substantive and is also being paid from taxpayers’ funds. I am sure it will come in very handy for the gold miners and their families. There is a danger, however, sir, that others will use this as a precedent for future unresolved industrial disputes.”

In response, Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad says that the coalition government has provided the platform for the unions to talk to the government to understand the imperatives of resolving the issue.

“If you look at the history of unionism in this country, there have been responsible leaders. We have not had the kind of disruptions that they were thinking of when they brought in draconian laws. We have taken all that away and provided a platform, and I don’t think this will be used as a precedent.”

Prasad, in his budget address, declared a significant payout of $9.2 million for the resolution of the Vatukoula Mine strike.

The International Labour Organization acknowledged this strike, which commenced in 1991, as the longest in history.