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Workers walk out

Sikeli Qounadovu
Sunday, February 18, 2018

ABOUT 50 workers of Advance Joinery Building Solutions (AJBS) walked off their jobs on Friday after constant delay in receiving their wages.

Nineteen workers claimed they had not received their wages for the past four weeks, while another 30 had not been paid for the past two weeks.

These are workers at the Tuatua/Nasau Primary School on Koro Island where AJBS had been given the sub-contract by Ba Provincial Council Holdings Ltd (BPCHL) to rebuild the school.

Nasau villager Jiuta Tuibuca walked off his job two weeks ago because what he thought was going to provide for him and his family was not the case.

"I have not been paid for four weeks, so I decided why should I keep working here when I am not being paid anything.

"I live with my aunty and Year Nine cousin and I was hoping to help meet my family's need," he said.

"I have two children in school. One in Year 13 and the other in Year Five. I was hoping this job will assist me, now I am considering returning to my farm," added Solomone Turaga, who also has not been paid for four weeks.

Simeli Cokanasiga, who has to look after his wife, whose right leg was amputated, said since work started last year, there had been consistent delay in their pay.

He said the village canteens had refused to give them any more credit because of constant delay in paying their dues.

When this newspaper visited the school on Friday, only three workers were on site.

Diren Prasad, who is heading the operations of AJBS on the island, said BPCHL was responsible for the workers pay.

BPCHL operations manager Rakesh Prasad said AJBS handled the pay of its workers and to date, BPCHL had transferred about $1 million to ABJS.

He said he was concerned with the plight of the workers and it was something he hoped to settle with Diren Prasad when he arrived on the island.

It is understood that workers of AJBS and BPCHL, who work for Koro High School, are owed over $40,000.

Repair works at the school is funded by AusAID's Assessment to Quality Education Program (AQEP).

AQEP program manager Jemima Stancombe said AQEP expected work to be completed by June.

When asked whether AQEP would ensure the workers receive their pay, she said: "This is a matter that needs to be dealt with by BPCHL/AJBS and its employees. AQEP expects all contractors and subcontractors to comply with Fiji labour laws."

AQEP manages the $9m design and construction project for six schools on Koro Island.

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