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Job future uncertain

Felix Chaudhary
Friday, December 14, 2012

CONSTRUCTION workers and those employed at concrete product manufacturing plants in the west will not have anything to celebrate this Christmas should the cement shortage continue.

Workers at several sites in the division were stood down and while it proved difficult to ascertain exact numbers, industry stakeholders revealed the crisis could not be averted and contingency plans were in place to address immediate supply needs.

Fiji Master Builders Association president Vijay Raghwan said the companies were doing their best to avert sending workers home while Fiji Industries Limited sought to rectify issues at the cement factory.

"Cement is the lifeline of our business, so this has affected us quite significantly.

"However, we also have to recognise that nobody can predict breakdowns of this nature and we understand that contingency plans have been put in place and relief cement is due into the country in the next 24 to 48 hours," he said. While Mr Raghwan revealed his organisation had not stood down workers during the crisis, the same could not be said for businesses in the west.

Raju Karnawaddi, managing director of GDR Construction Limited in Malolo, on the outskirts of Nadi, said he was left with no option but to stand workers down 12 days from Christmas.

"I have had to send 35 workers home for the past two weeks and pay penalties because of the cement issue. I think it is time that the government looks into setting up a cement factory in the west," said Mr Karnawaddi.

Arrow Concrete Limited, a pre-cast concrete manufacturer based in Lautoka, temporarily shut down its plant and managing director Ashwin Raju said the uncertainty was a big issue for his business.

"I managed to keep things going for the past two weeks but had to let my employees go home this week," he said.

Fiji Industries Limited Lami cement factory suffered a major breakdown last month and resorted to importing cement from New Zealand to meet immediate supply needs.

Despite this, the building industry was literally brought to a standstill in the west as a result of the short supply of the critical raw material.

The Fiji Times conducted a survey of hardware outlets in the division and it revealed that because of the uncertainty of supply, hardware companies were unable to comment on when stock would return to normal levels.

Attempts to obtain comments from Fiji Industries Limited general manager Mosese Natuilagilagi yesterday proved futile.





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