Trouble in paradise for Fijian workers

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date: 1 September 2011

embargo: For immediate release

Later today (Thursday) the TUC will take part in a demonstration outside the Fiji High Commission in London as part of a global protest at the arrest and court appearance of one of the country's leading trade union officials.

Fijian union leader Daniel Urai is in court charged with holding an illegal meeting with his members as the military dictatorship that has run Fiji since 2006 steps up its repression of independent voices calling for democracy and reform.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Fiji may look like a tropical paradise, but it's anything but that for anyone who opposes the vicious military dictatorship. We want the Fijian regime to wake up tomorrow and know that the world is watching, horrified at their attacks on peaceful and constructive trade unionists.'

Over the past five years, unions have led the challenge to the military dictatorship which has run Fiji's economy into the ground and made it an international pariah, and seen it suspended from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum. The EU has also suspended its overseas aid programme and will consider further moves at the end of September.

Recently Fiji's military dictatorship has started to crack down on opposition groups like the unions and the Methodist Church, refusing to allow them to hold meetings, getting rid of workers' rights in the public sector and banning strikes in any sector the regime declares 'essential' like sugar farming and tourism.

Foreign Office Minister David Lidington condemned the arrest of Daniel Urai in August, saying 'the UK government believes this action will increase further Fiji's isolation from the international community. The right to assemble peacefully is at the heart of a functioning democracy and helps to improve long-term social, political and economic stability.'

At 4pm today (Thursday in the UK but Friday and the day of the court case in Fiji), the TUC is meeting with the Charge d'Affaires at the Fijian High Commission. The delegation will hand over a letter from TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber outlining the TUC's concerns at the regime's clampdown on workers' rights which are currently being investigated by the International Labour Organisation, the UN body dealing with the world of work.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- A copy of the letter can be found at http://www.tuc.org.uk/tucfiles/68/Fiji.doc

- For a Foreign Office release about the Fijian arrests see http://ukinfiji.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=643746382

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- The TUC will be outside the Fiji High Commission at 4pm today (Thursday 1 September) which is at 34 Hyde Park Gate, London SW7 5DN.

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

- Congress 2011 will be held at the TUC's Congress House in central London this year. The event runs over three days, from Monday 12 to Wednesday 14 September. Free media passes can be obtained by visiting www.tuc.org.uk/the_tuc/tuc-19831-f0.cfm and filling in the online form. All applications for media passes must be received no later than noon on Monday 5 September. Any applications received after then will be processed when possible and may be subject to delay. Late applications will be subject to a £50 administration fee. Wi-fi will be available free of charge throughout the venue.

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Gibson T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: egibson@tuc.org.uk

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