Strike action: Workers take on Fiji Water, demand better pay

A group of workers for Fiji Water have gone on strike at the US-owned company’s water bottling plant in Yaqara and the Naikabula depot in Lautoka on the main island Viti Levu on Tuesday.

Local media reports show employees holding signs with messages stating, “pay rise now”, “follow the law pay overtime now”, and “no more wage theft”.

National Union of Workers (NUW) general secretary Felix Anthony, speaking on behalf of the workers, told local media initial talks are scheduled for Tuesday afternoon online between the union and Fiji Water executives from the capital Suva and their US counterparts.

According to a statement by the NUW, the key issues include:

  • The Unions Log of Claims for the years 2023 and 2024 which includes Cost of Living Adjustments and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • The Employer’s failure to prepare shift rosters in compliance with the Law and failure to pay overtime work. This is a matter that’s been pending since 2018.
  • The Employers’ failure to negotiate and reach agreement on a shift allowance. Currently there is no shift allowance.
  • Transport arrangements for employees who are required to work overtime prior to and after their normal shift. This is important considering the location of the factory at a remote location without regular public transport.
  • The Employers’ failure to negotiate and conclude a job review. With the automation of the factory over a period of time and more recently, the nature of jobs have changed.
  • The Employers’ decision to employ casuals on a rotation basis for permanent jobs on individual contracts on terms and conditions that are discriminatory and in breach of the Collective Agreement between the Union and the Company.
  • Anthony said the workers voted to take industrial action due to “various long pending issues” between the workers and the management.

    “Anthony says the parties have met on numerous occasions and were close to an agreement, on 8th April 2024 when talks broke down. He says members of the union have grown impatient and called for action without delay,” the reported.

    RNZ Pacific has contacted Fiji Water for comment.

    Fiji Water is owned by US billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick and is the top imported premium bottled water in America.

    According to the company, its bottled water is imported to over 60 countries around the world.

    Last year, the Fijian government announced a seven-year on corporate tax concession for the bottled water industry, saying it was to to encourage new players who wish to enter the industry in Tailevu, Ra and Ba, and existing operators who wish to expand operations.

    The move attracted criticism from opposition at the time, who claimed that the new tax regime for the water bottling companies was not justified.

    However, the government refuted such claims, saying the Fiji Water company was not exempted from paying taxes in Fiji under the 2023/2024 Budget revenue measures.

    According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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