Fiji Water workers strike almost a week – but union ‘hopeful’ for deal

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Workers claim the company has failed pay owed overtime
The workers claim the company has failed pay owed overtime and have not made income adjustments to inflation, along with other pay related issues. Photo: National Union of Workers - Fiji

By Caleb Fotheringham, RNZ Pacific journalist

A National Union of Workers (NUW) official is hopeful Fiji Water employees who have been on strike for almost a week will return to work shortly.

Last Tuesday, a group of workers for Fiji Water went on strike over pay disputes at the multi-million dollar US-owned company’s water bottling plant in Yaqara and the Naikabula depot in Lautoka.

NUW’s industrial relations officer Mererai Vatege said the parties were currently working on a resolution.

“There have been some developments, the parties are currently talking,” Vatege said.

“We’re very hopeful and positive that this will be resolved soon.”

Vatege said the NUW met with Ministry of Labour officials on Thursday and are now awaiting a response from Fiji Water.

However, she was unable to give a date when she expected the matters to be resolved by.

Talks broke down last month
The employees have continued their strike, holding signs with messages calling for pay increases and working conditions.

Talks broke down between Fiji Water and workers on April 8.

The workers claim the company has failed pay owed overtime and have not made income adjustments to inflation, along with other pay related issues.


Fiji Water employees strike.           Viudeo: RNZ Pacific Waves

RNZ Pacific have requested comment from Fiji Water but have not had a response.

However, in a statement last Wednesday, a company spokesperson told Fijian media it was regrettable workers had engaged in a strike.

“The decision to strike is also unlawful because these issues have been submitted to the Ministry of Employment, which has not yet decided on the dispute,” the spokesperson said.

“Fiji Water takes great pride in being one of the best employers in Fiji and operating one of the most advanced and safest plants in the world.”

Some of ‘highest benefits’
The spokesperson said the company provided some of the highest and best benefits in Fiji, including a 13.5 percent wage increase in 2022.

They said recent offers to the union equal an additional 17 percent pay increase for hourly-paid workers and a new roster pattern that would give workers 17 more days off each year.

“Instead, the union has elected to engage in a strike that harms workers who will not receive wages while on strike,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the company would remain committed to resolving the contested issues with the union.

Vatege said employees wanted to return to work but were united in strike action.

She said they would only return once an agreement was signed between the union and the employer.

Fiji Water's signpost to its Yaqara valley production base in Fiji
Fiji Water’s signpost to its Yaqara valley production base in Fiji. Image: RNZ/Sally Round

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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