date: 9 November 2012
embargo: 00.01hrs Saturday 10 November 2012
Thousands of rugby fans heading to Twickenham later today (Saturday) for the friendly against Fiji are being urged to support the TUC campaign to win greater freedom for the Pacific islands' people.
Keen to point out that it has no wish to stop the current Fijian tour - the visitors are off to play against Gloucester on Tuesday and Ireland A next weekend - the TUC will be handing out leaflets tomorrow in Twickenham. The leaflet urges match goers to use social media to show their support for the island's repressed people and its regularly-intimidated trade union movement. Further protests will be taking place next week outside Gloucester's Kingsholm Stadium and Limerick's Thomond Park.
Most people wrongly assume that Fiji is a tropical island paradise, but the military regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama has been suspended from the Commonwealth and reprimanded by the International Labour Organisation for widespread abuse of workers' rights, says the TUC.
The Fijian dictatorship controls almost every aspect of island life - it even appoints the team manager of its national sport. Rugby coach Asieri Rokorua is a Major in the military government and the Prime Minister's personal official.
It is alleged that Major Rokorua has been behind violent attacks on trade union leaders and workers across the islands, threatening not just union activists but their families too.
The Fijian economy is collapsing, with its people being driven into increasing poverty, yet the islands' population has virtually no means of speaking out. There is no free press, the army has sacked independent judges and expelled an international human rights mission. Unions across the islands have been told they can only negotiate with employers if the police are also in the room.
If that wasn't enough says the TUC leaflet, elections were suspended during the military coup in 2006, and although the regime has said it will restore free and fair elections by 2014, no-one is holding their breath.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Rugby is a popular sport, thankfully mostly played by democracies, and while no-one wants to stop anyone from enjoying the match today, it won't hurt anyone to spare the Fijian people a few minutes' thought.
'The military dictatorship is passionate about rugby - one of its senior officials is over here to manage the national team - but sadly the government is less enthusiastic about improving the lot of its people and restoring democracy to the islands.
'Meanwhile, as workers are becoming ever poorer, it is only the trade union movement which dares speak out, and for doing so its leaders and their families are living in fear of arrest and assault.'
Rugby fans in Twickenham for the match are being urged to show their support for the TUC's campaign and the Fijian people by tweeting #fairplayfiji to @FTUC1 (the Fijian TUC).
The TUC leaflet also calls on rugby supporters to email the Fijian Attorney General to say that they are appalled at the human rights abuses being carried out and to demand an end to draconian restrictions on freedom and human rights.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- The Fair Play for Fiji's People leaflet being handed out in Twickenham is here: http://www.tuc.org.uk/fairplayforfiji_flyer/
- A joint statement condemning the actions of the government in Fiji from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Fiji Trades Union Congress, the International Trade Union Confederation and the TUC is at www.tuc.org.uk/fijirugby
- The text of the email that rugby fans are being urged to send to the Fijian Attorney General and the Fijian High Commission can be found at www.tuc.org.uk/fairplayfiji
- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk
- Follow the TUC on Twitter: @tucnews
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: email@example.com
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Rossiter T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07887 572130 E: email@example.com
Issued: 10 November, 2012