Repression of trade union and human rights goes unabated in Fiji

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Repression of trade union and human rights goes unabated in Fiji

The military regime in Fiji has intensified attacks on workers and their trade unions with the publication of the Essential National Industries and Designated Corporations Regulations on Friday 9 September 2011.

The regulations which came into immediate effect will govern industrial relations of the declared enterprises which include Fiji's financial, telecommunications, civil aviation and public utilities industries. The military regime, in crass disregard of the protests from the Fijian trade union movement and the international trade union movement spearheaded by the ITUC, seems determined to continue to fundamentally undermine internationally recognized labour rights while publicly claiming to 'protect fundamental workers' rights.' In September, Daniel Urai, President, Fiji Trades Union Congress, appeared in court on charges of unlawful assembly following his arrest for meeting union members over negotiations with hotel management.

The Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree, gazetted in July this year, seeks to:

Ban all strikes, slowdowns, sick actions or any action that may negatively impact the employer;

  • Ban unions from representing workers in negotiating collective bargaining outcomes;
  • Void all current collective agreements within 60 days;
  • Provide that after 60 days any strike or lockout may take place only with the written authority of the Minister;
  • Ban overtime payments, including for weekend work, work on days off, and work on public holidays unless agreed by the employer;
  • Cancel all current Wages Council Orders regarding minimum terms and conditions of work in designated industries;
  • Require that all members, office bearers, officers and executives of the union shall be employees of the designated company; and,
  • Applies to all Government owned industries and any other that the Minister may designate.

Mr Juan Somavia, Director-General of ILO, has, in a statement, expressed deep regret over the decision by the Fijian Government to proceed with the publication of the regulations to implement the Essential Industries (Employment) Decree gazetted in late July this year. For details of the ILO Statement, visit http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/press-and-media-centre/statements-and-speeches/WCMS_162761/lang--en/index.htm

The Director-General's statement follows a High-Level mission to Fiji in August this year which raised concerns over the implications of the Decree for the Government of Fiji's international obligations under ILO Conventions ratified by it. The Pacific Islands Forum which met on 7-8 September in Auckland, New Zealand, in its communiqué said:

'Leaders reiterated their call for commencement of genuine, inclusive political dialogue in Fiji between parties without preconditions or predetermined outcomes. In doing so, they also reaffirmed the underlying values of the Forum, namely respect for democracy, good governance and the rule of law, and expressed their continuing deep concern at the deteriorating human rights situation and serious political and economic challenges facing the people of Fiji.' For the full communiqué, visit communiqué issued by the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' Meeting

The TUC is backing the global campaign in solidarity with the Fijian trade union movement, involving trade unionists in Australia and New Zealand and in many GUFs, co-ordinated by the ITUC and supported by Amnesty International. The campaign includes lobbying governments, the EU institutions, the Commonwealth and companies like Tate & Lyle. The EU on 26 September extended its decision on suspension of aid to Fiji adopted in 2007 for further two years for violations of essential elements of the Cotonou Agreement (respect of human rights, rule of law and democratic principles).

The repression of trade union and human rights in Fiji has prompted a web campaign by LabourStart, supported by trade unionists across the globe sending protest e-mails to the Fijian Government. Further information can be found at
Rights at Work and Labourstart.

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