THE People's Democratic Party has called on the Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union to negotiate a settlement instead of pursuing strike action by mill workers in the country.
The country's newest political party said it was seriously concerned about the stand-off between the FSC, government and the union because of the significant proportion of the population that stood to be affected should industrial action be taken.
"The PDP maintains that the sugar industry is vital for Fiji's economy and suggests that all the parties concerned negotiate and resolve the issue amicably," said party spokesman Nirmal Singh.
"The government must recognise that trade union leaders have the mandate to represent their members and must urge FSC to enter into negotiations and dialogue to resolve the issue.
"The FSGWU has the mandate to proceed with industrial action by its workers, however, we urge the union leaders to consider the wider interest of the sugar industry and to pursue a negotiated settlement before proceeding to strike option."
Mr Singh said the PDP was also concerned about the state of the industry and the mismanagement that had brought one of the country's biggest foreign exchange earners to its knees, resulting in a lack of interest by farmers to continue sugar-cane farming.
"The workers are not responsible for the current state of affairs in the sugar industry and deserve a fair hearing on their legitimate expectation as they continue to earn below the poverty line.
"The government has the responsibility to ensure that the FSC engage with the FSGWU and all parties to put the national interest of Fiji ahead of their own."
Union general secretary Felix Anthony, in an earlier interview with this newspaper, said he was willing to sit at the negotiate.
However, he said the union was waiting for the Ministry of Labour to validate the results of a secret ballot where 67.5 per cent of 770 workers participated and 90 per cent voted for industrial action.
Sugar permanent secretary Lieutenant Colonel Manasa Vaniqi said negotiations could not be held with any organisation that used the threat of strike action to resolve issues.
"It would be in the best interest of mill workers not to go on strike," Lt-Col Vaniqi said.