[Marxism] Australian imperialism: union-busting in Fiji

Nicholas Siemensma nsiemensma at yahoo.com.au
Sun May 2 04:56:12 MDT 2004

Gold-digging Emperor and his minor royalties

After 13 bitter years, striking Fiji gold miners may never get a cent,
writes Mat Oakley.
Sunday Age
May 2, 2004

It all began on February 27, 1991, when about 200 mine workers walked
off their jobs in the Philip Shaft, the most productive at Vatukoula.
Over subsequent days, miners from other shafts joined them until around
700 men and women had withdrawn their labour.

Emperor Gold Mine management, led by the ferociously anti-union New
Zealand stockbroker Jeffrey Reid, refused to negotiate with the Fiji
Mine Workers Union. The union, which had already let workers down by
failing to gain legal recognition from the company, refused to
negotiate with anyone except senior management.

Emperor sought and won a court injunction declaring the strike illegal
and in the following days progressively sacked 436 workers. Riot police
- fed, housed and transported by the company - were brought in to
secure company premises and evict sacked workers from their homes. In
the ensuing scuffles a court bailiff was killed.

Like most labour disputes, the Vatukoula strike evokes opinions as
bitter as they are often narrow. Even the most straightforward facts
about the case are often buried in a slurry of accusation and acrimony.

The issue of the causes of the strike is a good example. Mine workers
say they walked out because conditions at the mine were intolerable,
their safety was being ignored and that the pay they took home was
below subsistence level.


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