Tuvalu News

LABOR DISPUTE IN FIJI LEADS TO FOOD CRISIS IN TUVALU

By Matelita Ragogo

SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 13, 2000 Fiji Times)---Villagers on eight Tuvalu atolls face the possibility of food and water shortages because their supply ship is dry docked at the Shipbuilding Fiji slipway.

Yesterday the Tuvalu government questioned agreements of regional nations helping each other after attempts to have its ship, the Nivaga II, removed from the Fiji slipway were unsuccessful.

Tuvalu state secretary Saufatu Sopoaga said the government officials or the union members who refused to release the Nivaga II should have done so on humanitarian grounds.

Tuvalu officials approached slipway workers who are on strike to release the Nivaga II from the slipway.

"The slipway in Fiji now has a very unreliable reputation. The refusal by the parties involved is inhuman,'' Mr. Sopoaga said.

"The Tuvalu Government is beginning to get very frustrated with the way your (Fiji) government, the union and the receivers handled our case.

"We understand the dispute is between an employer and its workers but why victimize us, considering our past good relations with the slipway?

"Work on the vessel was complete. All they needed to do was deslip it. It appeared that no one was willing to take responsibility.''

On the understanding that the Nivaga II would be in Fiji for one week, the Tuvalu Government earlier hired the Cagidonu at $A 2,500 (US$ 1,541.25) per day.

Some of the Nivaga II crewmembers will return home today so the government will be paying only for a skeleton crew.

Mr. Sopoaga said if the dispute continues Tuvalu will consider international assistance to get its vessel back.

Public Enterprise Ministry permanent secretary Brian Singh confirmed discussions with Tuvalu Works Minister Samuelu Pentola Teo.

"We are trying our best to resolve the dispute. But I cannot give a timeframe because I would be making a commitment again which we may not meet,'' Mr. Singh said.


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