News/Fiji: Chinese garment workers on hunger strike

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Subject: News/Fiji: Chinese garment workers on hunger strike
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Apr 03 2000 - 10:36:30 EDT


Chinese garment workers on hunger strike
Agence France Presse, March 7, 2000

SUVA, Fiji, March 7 (AFP) -- Chinese immigrant women workers in a garment
factory have gone on a hunger strike in protest against their employer's
failure to pay them four months wages.

The strike began on February 29 when 55 workers walked off their jobs after
one of the women alleged she was manhandled by the managing director of the
company as workers protested at not being paid for work done in February
this year and between April and June last year, an official at the Labour
Ministry said.

For the first two days of the strike, the management refused to provide
food to the women who were kept locked in a house in a Suva suburb.

"From March 2, the company began to provide food but some of the women
decided to go on a hunger strike," the official said.

The workers were brought in to work for three Taiwanese garment factories,
Eastern Apparel and its sister factories, Livia Garments and Silver Star
Apparel Ltd in 1998 on a three-year contract which expires in October 2001.

The garment factories are refusing to speak but the Labour official said
managing director Hshu Huang Chin had confirmed workers were not paid for
three months last year because business was slow.

Government Tuesday ordered an investigation into the case and it is likely
the factory owners would be charged for being in breach of the country's
labour legislation and for failing to pay wages in line with the Garment
Wages Regulation Order.

The government has also ordered that a doctor be taken to examine the women
who are on a hunger strike.

This is not the first time immigrant Chinese workers in the garment factory
have protested against poor pay and working conditions. A year ago, 30
workers marched to the Chinese Embassy in Suva at 3am to report non-payment
of wages.

Two years ago about 40 workers in a Lautoka garment factory staged a hunger
strike for similar reasons.

This time around the Chinese Embassy has refused to be involved.

Fiji's Labour government, which took office eight months ago, has said it
will not tolerate Asians being brought in to work under sweat shop
conditions in garment factories here.
Melanie Orhant <<morhant@igc.org>>
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