Mine chaos: Police deployed to maintain peace

Police officers pastrol Vatukoula Gold Mine on Thursday, June 14, 2018. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

HEAVY police presence at the Vatukoula Gold Mine Ltd agitated mine workers who raised grievances about their working conditions this week.
The workers’ representatives have been meeting with the mine management team since Monday and were surprised when bus loads of police officers descended into the mine area.
The workers were concerned about the two deaths at the mine over the past 12 months and what they claimed was the electrocution of four workers last week in one of the shafts.
When a team from this newspaper arrived at Vatukoula Gold Mine Ltd yesterday, bus loads of police officers were at the mine. Three police trucks carrying police officers patrolled the area for a few hours in the morning.
Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said Police were at the mine to maintain peace between the two parties.
She said an internal matter had eventuated with the DPC West being called in to attend a meeting between the company and the workers’ representatives.
Yesterday, she said Police would not comment any further on the issue and maintained their earlier statement.
Fiji Trades Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony said he was aware of the issues at the mine.
“The mine workers are our members and we have been trying to negotiate a collective agreement with the company for the past year and a half and things have not been successful,” Mr Anthony said.
“Our members are working in atrocious conditions and quite apart from the safety aspect, there has also been no wage increase for quite a number of years.
“And the recent deaths and accidents are testaments to the dangerous conditions these workers are forced under.
“We are very aware of the laws that govern negotiations and we will exhaust every attempt at negotiating before we take the next step. We hope that the management will take note of the workers’ concerns and address their issues with urgency.”
According to a workers’ representative, miners were working in 60 degree Celsius conditions in one of the shafts and safety issues were real concerns.

(This story was also contributed by Repeka Nasiko)

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