Their union says attempts were made by to intimidate the union with police and military officers present at the polling places, and threats from management to forward the names of those participating in the ballot to the coup installed military government.
67.5 per cent of the membership voted, of which 90% voted in favour of strike action, which fulfils the legal requirement for strike action.
Sugar is vital to Fiji's economy, and the interim government is reported to have said the mills will be kept open despite a strike.
That sets the stage for a potential showdown between the interim government and the trade union movement.
Sugar and General Workers Union General Secretary, Felix Anthony, says the Fiji Sugar Corporation and the interim government went to great lengths to stop workers participating in the strike vote.
Radio Australia has approached the interim government and the Fiji Sugar Corporation to comment, but neither has responded so far.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union General Secretary, Felix Anthony, Ged Kearney, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions
ANTHONY: The FSC management had meetings in all the mills last week, just prior to the ballot warning workers not to participate in the ballot and that the government would be told of those that participate and clearly trying to dissuade workers from taking part in the vote.
We also have the police and the military also present during the ballot. Again, that was totally uncalled for and in fact, in some places, they attempted to intervene over the process.
HILL: Is it usual to have police and military at a union ballot. The government I understand has said the mills will not close. How are they going to keep the mills open if the workers are on strike?
ANTHONY: I don't know what the government means when they say that, that could be a threat that they may use scabs or military to try and run the mills or they may try and issue another decree barring us from going on strike.
HILL: The Fiji sugar workers are being backed by the international trade union movement. Ged Kearney, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, says the efforts to stop the workers voting to strike are outrageous.
KEARNEY: This type of intimidation is outrageous, absolutely unheard of we would think in the history of Fiji as a democratic nation. But despite all that intimidation, we have the majority of the union members voting to strike. It's all done legitimately, it's all done within the law. The government can point nothing at the union for doing anything untoward. And yet, the regime there has said that they will completely disregard the will of the workers, they will somehow continue to operate the mill. One can only wonder if they will send in the military to do that and it really has become a situation I think that could become quite volatile and quite dangerous.
HILL: Could this actually turn out into some sort of a confrontation between the union and the government if the government sends in people, as you said, possibly the military or someone else to run the mills. They'd have to cross picket lines. Could there be a confrontation?
KEARNEY: I don't see what else could occur. I think there will be a confrontation if, indeed, the government sends in the military to run the mills. They haven't said they will do that, but I don't know how they will operate the mill without doing that.
HILL: If this does get into a bit of a confrontation between the Sugar Workers Union and the interim government, What would the role of the overseas unions in Australia and New Zealand and the wider trade union community be?
KEARNEY: The wider trade union movement around the world has been working very, very hard to raise awareness of what's happening in Fiji.
We certainly have our executive tomorrow. the ACTU's Executive, we'll be sending a very strong message to mill workers in Fiji that we are 100% behind them, that we support their action and that we will, if necessary, take action to show our solidarity. What that might look like, I'm not sure.
HILL: Well, the Trade Union Movement internationally have been supporting the Fiji unions for a long time, but it doesn't seem to have helped them any?
KEARNEY: It's very difficult. We have a regime there that is hell bent on stripping the workers rights and broader human rights. It's a very difficult situation.
We know that the ILO is watching this very closely and there is an inquiry underway at the ILO or there's been a plan to have an inquiry via the ILO very soon and I think this would precipitate that.
HILL: The Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union leader Felix Anthony says his members are not just concerned about not having had a wage increase in seven years. He says they are worried about safety at the mills, especially given the death of one of them in an incident recently.
ANTHONY: We are very concerned that one of our workers at Lautoka Mill who suffered 60% burns last Thursday passed away last night and the mill has not been operational since.
HILL: How did he get burnt?
ANTHONY: He actually was working in the mill and had sugar syrup, very hot sugar syrup fall on him and suffered burns at the evaporation station.
We are now being told that the release valve in the evaporator was not working and therefore this accident took place.
HILL: Does the union have concerns about safety standards in the mills, given that this has happened?
ANTHONY: Well, of course, of course we do and they are serious concerns and a lot of questions need to be answered and more particularly as to why the evaporator was allowed to operate when the safety valves weren't working.