There have been too many fatal and serious accidents at Vatukoula Gold Mines over the years. In each case we are told that investigations will be conducted. However, none of the reports of the investigations have been made public or made available to the Occupational Health and Safety Board. Therefore no improvements in safety have been made over the years. There is a high rate of work related injuries and sickness at the Mines. These are treated as normal sickness.
Recently, one worker has been killed and 2 others seriously injured. The Fiji Trades Union Congress welcomes the audit of the mines which is long overdue. We call upon Government to include the Mines in the Occupational Health and Safety at Work Act. The mining industry is the only industry excluded from this Act. Mining is the most dangerous industry and there is no reason why there should not be safety standards applying to the mines just like every other workplace in Fiji. The FTUC has made numerous calls for the implementation of safety standards in the mines for many years now. Unfortunately, Government has not seen the need for any laws that would make our mines safer. However whenever an accident occurs, there is a concern aired and soon forgotten.
We are also advised that workers have been sent home without pay due to the closure of the mine for audit. The FTUC calls upon Government to ensure that all workers are paid for the time they are denied work according to Section 24 of the Employment Relations Act.
Workers in the mines are entitled to safe and healthy working conditions. We look forward to the audit report and appropriate action taken to make the mines safe for workers. Too many families have lost their breadwinners in the mines. The FTUC calls for immediate action to include the mining industry within the coverage of the OHS Act.
By: Felix Anthony