Fiji's Nadi airport reopens after fire crew strike

Singapore
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Fiji’s Nadi International Airport is now operating normally after being closed for about six hours due to a wildcat strike by fire crews and some other employees earlier today.

When the fire crews walked off around 06:00, Airports Fiji Limited was forced to close the airport for safety reasons causing an Air New Zealand flight inbound from the Cook Islands to divert to Auckland and delays for Air Pacific flights scheduled to depart earlier today.

Airports Fiji brought in fully trained auxiliary firemen, allowing the airport to reopen around 12:00. “These guys walked off and another crew was brought in later allowing the airport to reopen,” says Airports Fiji spokesman George Rubine speaking from Nadi.

“Tourists are coming and going as normal now,” says Rubine.

Less than 100 workers, including the fire crew, out of about 470 working at the airport went on strike to demand Airports Fiji recognise their union, the Fiji Public Services Association (FPSA), says Rubine.

Before the airport was privatised the unions were not permitted. Airports Fiji is willing to recognise unions but wants procedures followed and its employees to give their consent, says Rubine.

Although the matter is before the courts, Airports Fiji is optimistic an amicable solution can be reached sooner rather than later, says Rubine.

The Government has declared the strike illegal, all the more so as fire crews are deemed essential workers, raising the prospect of the strikers losing the jobs. Local observers think most workers will return soon to head off the threat of being sacked.

Separately the Government is now negotiating with landowners from Sana-kau village near the airport who threatened to disrupt operations and linked up with the strikers to push their claim for compensation for allowing part of the airport to use their land.

Local sources say their right to compensation is not disputed, the tricky part comes in agreeing on compensation.