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Villagers: Ban unfair

Luke Rawalai
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

VILLAGERS in the North claim the Ministry of Employment's decision to suspend 15 villages in the division from the recognised seasonal employers scheme is unfair.

Naqumu villager Seremaia Seviua said people in Seaqaqa now did not have a chance to be part of the program because a few workers did not stick to the rules.

Mr Seviua said there were other better candidates who could have represented the district.

"Sometimes selection criteria are based solely on the fact that the selectors and the candidates know each other well," he said.

"The whole village needs to be consulted with such decisions because its outcome will affect us all. The move by the ministry to ban our district is very unfair."

Lomaloma villager Pauliasi Lutu shared the same sentiments, saying Government should review the suspension period of four years as it was too long.

Dogoru Village headman Semi Radradra said the suspension was unfair on those who were qualified to attend the program.

In response to queries by this newspaper, a statement from the Ministry of Employment said Government had decided to ban villages from 19 districts in Fiji to remind the vanua to select the right people for seasonal work to maintain the country's reputation.

The statement said the decision would ensure Government could send more workers in future,

"However, the discretion is with the Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations," the statement said.

"This was an initiative by Government to send unemployed clients for the Seasonal Workers Program (SWP) to Australia and scheme in New Zealand.

"The Government sent the workers on the understanding that they would honour the terms and conditions of employment given to them. Unfortunately, a few chose to work outside the ambit of their employment contract and the conditions attached to their visas."

The statement said in the tikina-based recruitment approach, Government gave the foreign employment opportunity to isolated rural communities as a priority.

"For all those tikina that indicated their intention to participate (91 of all tikina want to participate) Government gave the villages and settlement heads the responsibility to select the right people and they were alerted to the fact that misbehaviour by any selected would lead to the suspension of the village from the program," the statement said.

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