On 5 December 2006, when news of the 2006 coup surfaced, I was with seven senior members of the Fiji Nursing Association (FNA) at our MacGregor Road headquarters. We were practicing presentations of the FNA’s submission on the draft Radium Protection Bill. A special cabinet select committee was scheduled to meet with us at 10am that morning. Just as we left the office to go to Parliament House, mobile phones started ringing as distressed family members called their relatives about the coup and the trouble at the parliamentary complex at Veiuto. Amongst the callers was my secretary, calling to alert me that there had been a military coup and that the cabinet select committee meeting had been postponed until further notice. We returned to the conference hall, and I conveyed to my colleagues what had happened. As we sat down, one of the nurses tapped my back and said, let us pray and not worry. I don’t know how my heart cried out that day as we prayed. All I can remember is that after a very long time I heard myself saying ‘amen’ in unison with my colleagues. We hugged each other, and then the other FNA leaders returned to their jobs at the CWM Hospital.
The 2006 coup left the FNA in a difficult position. We had negotiated concessions from the now deposed government of Laisenia Qarase, but these had not yet been implemented. Would they be honoured by the post-coup administration? What would be the result of the inevitable economic decline that invariably follows Fiji’s coups, and the cutbacks in civil service pay that have also been a familiar feature of post-coup policy-making? What kind of solidarity could be expected from other trades unions in negotiations with the post-coup interim government? This chapter looks at the background to the nurses’ strike of July–August 2007, at the fissures that emerged amongst the trades unions, and at the confrontation between the nurses and the interim cabinet.