The Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF) has been ordered by a Fijian court to stop offering voluntary redundancy or forcing redundancy on workers at the country's gateway airport at Nadi.
Reports from Fiji say Lautoka High Court Justice Joni Madraiwiwi issued the ruling after officials with the Fiji Public Services Association (FPSA) filed affidavits opposing the redundancies. The FPSA claims the CAAF had blocked earlier attempts to enter into dialogue over the dispute.
Despite the ruling, the CAAF says it will continue negotiations on the future of the workers, although its intention in continuing talks are not specified.
The dispute emerged after the Government passed a bill in March allowing a new semi-autonomous company, Airports Fiji, to assume control of Fiji's airports as part of a restructuring of the country's aviation bureaucracy. The company is 100% owned by the Government but operates as an independent profit-making entity.
Airports Fiji announced its intention to impose the 500 or more redundancies at Nadi International Airport when it was cleared to take over the gateway airport last month, together with plans to sub-lease portions of land at the site to which the local Hadrau community are claiming ownership.
The proposal to sub-lease the land, which was requisitioned for use by the US military during the Second World War, led the Native Lands Board of Fiji to call for its return to the Hadrau.
The Native Lands Board also called for the payment of $6.5 million to the local community in damages and compensation for the 54-year period since the war during which the land has been controlled by the CAAF.
With Airports Fiji showing no sign of handing over the tracts of land, which are not required by flight operations, the disaffected workers at the airport recently threatened disruptive strike action in support of the Hadrau.
An agreement was reached that averted the strikes on Friday last week, however, when Fiji's President, Sitiveni Rabuka, stepped in to ensure the uninterrupted assumption of control at Nadi yesterday by Airports Fiji.
The agreement permits Aiports Fiji to operate at Nadi while negotiations over the contested land continue. According to reports, the talks will centre on the possible granting of equity in the company to the Hadrau community in return for the continued use of the land.