FPSA – Solidarity for Fiji’s Civil Servants

The Fiji Public Services Association is one of the largest union organisations in the country boasting more than 3000 members today.

FPSA was founded in 1943 with links to the Association of European Civil Servants which was formed back in 1921.

The FPSA has a long proud history of fighting for the rights of workers in the country. In 1973, the union, led by Mahendra Chaudhry led a three-day civil servants strike that challenged the government’s grievances and disputes machinery.

Ten years later the union shut down the airports for two days over the cost of living adjustment.

Members of the FPSA at a recent meeting. Image: FijiOne

The FPSA is now led by General Secretary Rajeshwar Singh and is one of the largest affiliates of the FTUC.

298 Waimanu Road
G.P.O. Box 1405
Suva
Fiji
Tel:
+6793311922

Workers Exploited at World Cup Construction Sites in Qatar

By PRI’s The World

Foreign workers face exploitation and death while building Qatar’s World Cup sites

This story is a part of

Human Needs

Laborers work at a construction site in Doha on June 18, 2012.

Credit:Reuters

The tiny nation of Qatar is the world’s richest country per capita, so it’s no surprise that it’s pulling out all the stops while preparing to host the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar plans to spend more than $300 billion to construct the stadiums, hotels, shopping malls and other necessary infrastructure for the tournament. But with eight years still to go until the tournament, the project has faced a wave of allegations that Qatar is abusing the foreign workers who are building the new structures.

Sue Lloyd-Roberts, a reporter for BBC’s Newsnight, went to Doha to investigate concerns raised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that as many as 1,000 workers have died since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010.

“They’re told lies about how much they’re going to earn: A number of workers I spoke to are earning less than a dollar a day on which to support families back home,” Lloyd-Roberts says. They also “sometimes have to pay their medical expenses, mobile phones and food in Qatar.”

One Bangladeshi worker described a life that seems like indentured servitude: “We wake at four in the morning, get to work at about 6 and work until 5 in the evening. It takes an hour to get back to the camp. My room there isn’t fit for humans: Six of us share and there’s no place even to sit and eat.”

So why not leave? “I don’t want to stay here but I can’t leave,” he says. “The company have my passport.”

Despite the conditions, there seems to be no lack of migrant workers ready to work in Qatar. But Lloyd-Roberts underscores that many recruits are lied to when they sign up for jobs.

“They’re routinely told they’re going to earn twice as much as they actually get,” she says. “They’re not told about the appalling conditions, about working 11-hour days, about how they have to work in temperatures up to 120 degrees Fahrenhei over the summer months.”

Workers also suffer from dehydration or malnutrition because the food allowance is not enough — yet many still send money home rather than spending it on the food they need.

Qatar contests the accusations that 1,000 workers have died, a figure that comes from research by the International Trade Union Confederation. Death certificates sometimes show the cause of death as cardiac arrest caused by heat fatigue or exhaustion, or even traffic fatalities. Qatar’s authorities don’t regard such deaths as directly related to construction.

Yet Qataris are barely aware of the rampant safety complaints and soaring work-related death toll, Lloyd-Roberts says. “You can’t escape the sound of building in Doha — it’s all around you all the time. It’s a 24-hour-a-day operation — and yet Qataris seem blissfully ignorant of it.”

Unlike the foreign workers who have built Qatar’s modern buildings, most Qataris enjoy leisurely government jobs funded by the government’s oil wealth.

“Typically, an entry-level Qatari government worker will earn about $8,000 a month. That compares with a migrant worker who’s lucky to take away $200 a month. So it’s like two different planets,” Lloyd-Roberts says. “They seem to be unaware of what’s going on around them, and those I spoke with really didn’t know much about the migrant work force or how they were treated.”

http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-12-10/foreign-workers-face-exploitation-and-death-while-building-qatars-world-cup-sites

Workers Rights Are Human Rights : Human Rights 365

Every day is human rights day. This is the meaning of this year’s theme  – Human Rights 365.

FTUC however is skeptical of the impact of this year’s theme to the government of Fiji. Fiji workers have suffered throughout the year. Redundancies, the ENI Decree, the lowering of the National Minimum Wage and other issues have plagued workers throughout the year.

We urge and demand the government to prioritise the rights of workers who are the most valuable assets of any economy and encourage all other non-governmental organisations and also human and workers’ rights advocates to keep pressuring the government to take appropriate measures in the restoration of all rights to the people.

“I call on States to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account. And I call for special protections for the human rights defenders who courageously serve our collective cause” – General Ban ki Moon, UN General Secretary

Teachers In Solidarity: The Child Our Hope

The Fiji Teachers Union is a trade union organisation that has a long proud history. In 1924, European teachers in Suva formed the Suva Methodist Teachers Association and four years later in 1928, the Lautoka Teachers Association was formed. The two organisations merged in `1930 and called themselves the Fiji Teachers Union when the planning and organising was completed in 1931.

D.A.Shah was elected the first President and R.H.Ram Narayan the General Secretary.

(Picture: Fiji Times)

“The Child Our Hope” was the motto chosen by founders of the FTU. The teachers union was originally formed to protect the rights of the teachers working as private, grant aided, scheme of cooperation and missionary teachers but union membership is open to all persons in the teaching profession.

The FTU currently has sixteen branches located all over the country.

Agni Deo Singh is the current General Secretary and also FTUC Treasurer.

MEMBERSHIP
Teachers wishing to join the union need to fill in the Membership Application Form and and Authority Form.

All civil servant/ Temporary civil servants and GIA teachers must give their authority to MOE.
The teachers at Fiji Institute of Technology give their authority to the Director.
A lapse of 13 weeks or more nullifies membership.
Any teacher needing more details is welcome to write to the Union.

For more details please visit the FTU website at www.ftu.com.fj

Empowerment for NUFCW Union Members

The National Union of Factory and Commercial Workers collaborated with UA ZENSEN on organising a workshop for members of the NUFCW Union.

The workshop was titled ” Empowering Union Members on Employment Rights At Work and the Law”.

Participants gathered at the NUFCW hall late last month for the Programme.

Trade Unions and The Promotion of OSH

Rajeshwar Singh

FPSA General Secretary/FTUC Assistant National Secretary

Jotika Sharma

FTUC Education Officer/Centre Administrator

 Representatives from the FTUC participated in an ILO-ACTRAV Symposium that was held in October. Rajeshwar Singh, FPSA General Secretary and FTUC CA Jotika Sharma represented Fiji amongst 14 trade union representatives from other countries within the Asia Pacific Region.

The theme centered around the Role of Trade Unions in the promotion of OSH in Asia Pacific.

Trends emerging in the Asia-Pacific region included the increasing precariousness of work due to outsourcing, contracting and casualisation of workers that leads to abuse of workers and deplorable working conditions.

Participants agreed that the protection of life and health at work is a worker’s right and action needed to be taken in the following areas:

  • Enhancing regional cooperation of trade unions, networking, exchange of information/experience/solidarity actions in the area of OSH including secondment and participation in training of trainers, exercised among others by means of a mailing list of participants;
  • Conducting the necessary activities to ratify/implement the ILO key Instruments on OSH: Convention No 155, its 2002 Protocol and Convention No 187:
    1.  Participate in the preparation, implementation and review of national OSH policies and programmes;
    2. Participate and contribute to the development, strengthening and review of the national OSH systems;
    3. Work to set up tri-partite National OSH Councils;
    4.  Promote social dialogue at the enterprises (OSH committee or other forms);
  • Continuing efforts to ratify and implement Convention No 176;
  • Facilitating and provide training and education on OSH for TU leaders at all levels so that they can effectively participate in bipartite and tripartite bodies and consultations, and become more active in OSH activities in the workplaces;Campaigning for Right to Decent Work – to promote workers’ safety, health and well-being, including through promotion of the integration of OSH in Decent Work Country Programmes and other programmes;
  • Promoting the shift from behavior based safety and health to prevention: identification and elimination of work hazards and risks, establishment of safe work procedures, systems of work, etc.;
  • Promoting workers’ and their representatives’ involvement in design, implementation and monitoring in the field of OSH at all levels from workplace to national;
  • Integrating sex and gender perspectives in OSH work and union policies and actions;
  • Raising awareness among management and workers on hazards and risks (including psychosocial factors) in order to focus on their prevention;
  • Improving worker-union-management communication and action on safety and health workplace issues. This includes increased worker participation in incident and injury investigations, and input into decision making;
  • Promoting universal social protection floors, and improved legislation, based on rights;
  • Promoting rehabilitation and return to work rights to injured workers;
  • Strengthening cooperation with authorities and labour and other inspectorates to ensure improved workplace compliance and lobby for strengthened and effective labour and other inspectorates.

“Trade Unions therefore call for Decent Work-led rights based approach to OSH. For this it is necessary that effective right to organize, to union recognition and to collective bargaining is guaranteed.” – Report

Fair Phone But Not Fair Play

By Eric Lee

Labourstart

Fairphone is a good idea – and a good phone.  I know because I own one.

But in the company’s attempts to build a truly ‘ethical’ phone, they’ve forgotten one thing: the workers who assemble the phone have no legal right to join or form a trade union.

I’ve written about this before (see here, for example) and today we have a chance to send a very strong message to the company that they have to accept the idea that a truly ‘fair’ phone is made by union labour.

Fairphone has an initiative this week to design cases for the phone — and they’re asking people to submit their ideas.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if thousands of trade unionists contacted them with the same message?  Here’s the message:

“This phone would be even fairer if it were made by a union member.”

I’ve already proposed this.  Will you help me?

Go here:

http://designaday.fairphone-open.com/an-even-fairer-phone/

Add your comments at the bottom of the page to support our idea.

(You will almost certainly need to create an account to join the discussion — but it’s worth it.)

If enough of us comment on this, Fairphone will have to listen.

And it’s not about getting a case made — it’s about making a case.  For workers’ rights.

We Are Union Hear Us Roar : Working Life

By Mark Phillips Editor – Working Life

On Saturday, the Denis Napthine-led Liberal-National coalition government was turfed out by Victorian voters after just one term in power. The election was won in the key southern bayside seats of Carrum, Mordialloc, Bentleigh and Frankston – seats where Victorian unions had concentrated campaigning and resources most of 2014. This is the inside story of how a grassroots union campaign helped swing the election.

IT’S less than 36 hours until Victorians vote and the Melbourne Trades Hall building is a sea of calm.

Any visitor expecting a last minute frenzy of phone calls, volunteers packing election day kits, or panicked attempts to fill rosters will be disappointed.

All the calls have been made, the crews have been assigned to their booths on polling day, and the coreflutes, posters and leaflets have all been distributed to the army of volunteers.

The dilemma is to find something meaningful to do for the volunteers rostered on election eve.

So well organised and precision perfect has the union movement’s election campaign been, that now all that is left is the waiting.

Waiting for the day when Victorians will vote to turn Denis Napthine’s Liberal-National coalition into the state’s first one term government for more than half a century.

The bluestone Trades Hall itself, one of Melbourne’s most imposing Gold Rush-era buildings on the corner of Victoria and Lygon Streets, is wrapped in about 50 metres of six-foot high red bunting carrying the message “Nap Time’s Over”.

Across the road in Lygon Street, the Liberal candidate for Melbourne, Ed Huntingford, has parked his sky blue Toyota in a futile attempt to counter the Trades Hall message.

He gets full marks for chutzpah, but will be disappointed to find a cheeky union soul has stuck flyers under his front and back windscreen wipers.

Precision planning

It has been like this for the past month as the Victorian Trades Hall Council’s state election campaign has swung into the final straight to home.

The Trades Hall campaign slipped under the mainstream media’s radar. If you did not live in one of the six targeted marginal seats, you were probably blisfully unaware there was a campaign.

But for residents in the target seats, there was no avoiding it, and the similarities – albeit on a much smaller scale – with the Your Rights At Work campaign have been remarked upon often.

But it carries profound implications for the future of grassroots political campaigning in Australia.


“Changing the government really wasn’t our number one goal,” says Luke Hilakari. “Our number one goal was to build a movement.”


As he surveys the final preparations – dressed, as always, in black jeans and boots and a t-shirt bearing the message ‘This is what a unionist looks like’ – the recently-elected Trades Hall Secretary, 33-year-old Luke Hilakari, exudes quiet confidence about the result on Saturday.

Win, lose or draw, he knows that the union campaign has made a difference.

“Right now, it looks like the conservatives are screwed,” he confides.

“This is a very big campaign. We’re trying to do something really hard. We’re trying to knock off a first term government, and that hasn’t been done in Victoria for over 60 years. To do something that big we needed a pretty big response.”

The Trades Hall campaign was launched in March, when the presence of the famed British singer-songwriter/activist Billy Bragg ensured about 1000 people spilled into the Trades Hall courtyard.

But its genesis probably goes back to when Hilakari – who earned his stripes as an organiser at United Voice – was first appointed Trades Hall industrial and campaigns officer in 2011.

Making its mark: advertising hoardings erected outside Trades Hall. All photos: ACTU/Mark Phillips

 

The campaign launch was a blast – the beer flowed freely, the sausages sizzled, Billy Bragg posed for selfies and afterwards everyone ended up carousing in the John Curtin Hotel well into the early hours.

Indeed, under Hilakari, campaigning looks like fun, which is a critical factor in attracting so many volunteers.

But also, like everything in this campaign, the launch had a serious side. Every attendee had to sign up for the campaign by providing their name, email address and phone number, and they have all been contacted and coerced into volunteering in one way or another since.

Hilakari’s enthusiasm is contagious and he could never be accused of not pulling his sleeves up and pitching in himself. He and a group from Trades Hall are at every union rally or event, and the favour has been reciprocated by affiliates, who have lent staff and resources.

Like Hilakari, most of the small campaign team at Trades Hall are young and fresh-faced.

With campaigns officer Wil Stracke, who comes from the Australian Services Union, at his side, Hilakari set out with three clear goals when he began plotting the 2014 election: changing the government, building the union movement, and improving Trades Hall’s internal campaign capacity.

“Changing the government really wasn’t our number one goal,” Hilakari says.

“Our number one goal was to build a movement and for us the election was just a vehicle to make that happen. We want to be stronger at the end of the campaign than we were at the start.”

This meant not only building the size of the movement’s activist base, but also improving how the Trades Hall communicated to them and mobilised them.

“It’s time to tell people don’t be scared, don’t apologise for being a union member,” says volunteer Sharon Hart.

Proudly union

While desperate Liberal advertising sought to target Labor leader Daniel Andrews as being a puppet of the union movement in the time-honoured manner of union bashing – even photoshopping a CFMEU hard hat onto him – the Trades Hall campaign was unashamedly badged as ‘We Are Union’.

“We are proudly union at Trades Hall and we want to pull all our unions together to be just as proud as we are,” Hilakari says.

In fact, the overly-negative anti-union advertising probably worked in reverse and damaged the Liberals more. It also served as an extra motivator for the campaign activists.

Having decided on four key issues for the campaign – jobs, health, education and emergency services – Trades Hall then identified who they wanted to persuade to vote progressive.

At an early stage, a decision was made to focus on just six target seats, all held by the Coalition by very slim margins. This was partly due to lack of resources and wish to avoid being spread too thin.

They settled on the “sandbelt” seats of Carrum, Frankston, Mordialloc and Bentleigh, leafy Monbulk in the Dandenong ranges, and the coastal seat of Bellarine south of Geelong, both of which had been deemed marginal Liberal after redistribution.

The most marginal of these was Carrum which, after redistribution, required a swing of just 0.3% to become Labor.

In the finely balanced Victorian Legislative Assembly, the Coalition only needed to lose four of those seats to lose government.

Nurse Jo, firefighter Paul and paramedic Heidi were three of the many workers who handed out at the election on Saturday.

Authenticity was the key

Lacking the financial resources to commission a large-scale electronic or print media blitz like the Your Rights At Work campaign had, the Trades Hall campaign was always going to succeed or fail on whether it could mobilise enough grassroots supporter/activists to engage on a targeted ground war.

And this is where state trades and labour councils excel.

Trades Hall set an internal target of recruiting 2000 volunteer activists to help on the campaign. They exceeded that with 2191 volunteers signed up who have done at least one activity as part of the campaign.

“Those activities had to be something physical, whether it be phone banking, doorknocking, handing out at a railway station, marching in a rally,” says Hilakari. “It wasn’t good enough for us just to click on an online petition.”

This year, union campaign volunteers have knocked on 93,000 doors, convinced about 30,000 people to sign pledges or petitions of support, held 211 street stalls and 152 train station blitzes, where they handed out 37,000 flyers.

Back at Trades Hall, 172 phone bank shifts were held, with 30,000 conversations held with union members in marginal seats. People who did not indicate how they planned to vote were contacted again – and again – often around a specific issue they had identified in an earlier conversation, such as health.

Online and social media has also been a crucial part of the campaign, and the little bit of money that was available for advertising primarily went online.

The VTHC’s Facebook page has grown from a couple of thousand to almost 9000 likes, while dozens of snappy and often hilarious videos have been made for YouTube.

In any public contact, a key worker – such as a nurse or a firefighter in uniform was paired up with an “orange person”, a volunteer so-named for their orange t-shirts. And very rarely, maybe one in 100 knocks, did they have doors slammed in their face.

“The messenger is as important as the message,” says campaigns officer Wil Stracke.

The same happened with phone calls, where a specialist worker would be assigned to talk to a voter about the issue they most cared about.

“The whole basis of our campaign is around the authenticity of our work,” says Hilakari.

“A firefighter will be believed every single time over a politician having a conversation. Same with a metalworker talking about a job in the Geelong region. Same with a paramedic, a nurse, a teacher, all these professions have been doorknocking and having direct conversations. They are the most powerful conversations and the most persuasive conversations.”

It was the same with all the campaign communications, tagged as ‘The Real Story’.

Every person who appeared on a poster, flyer, or video is a real worker and a real union member.

At times, this has caused problems: an ambulance paramedic, Louise Creasey, was hauled over the coals for being photographed in her uniform until public outrage forced management to back off.

“We’ve equipped a bunch of new people to go back to their workplaces and feel proud of being union and being part of the campaign,” says Wil Stracke.

 

The story doesn’t end here

Sharon Hart, a psychiatric nurse who lives in the seat of Frankston, has arrived at Trades Hall on Thursday afternoon to pick up her equipment for election day.

She is wearing her orange ‘We Are Union’ t-shirt under her jacket. Although a union member her entire working life, she has never been involved in something like this, and over the past few months has done phone calls and handed out leaflets as well as the election day activities.

She has found it an empowering experience.

“The unions have been decimated by the Liberals, and divided and conquered and people are running scared, and it’s time to tell people don’t be scared, don’t apologise for being a union member,” she says.

“When I’m leafletting, I’ve found most people have been polite and people are interested in knowing where you work and usually they will give you a story about their own lives.”

Although the union campaign generally stayed under the radar of the mainstream media, a sign of its success was the reaction from the Liberal Party and the government.

“The good thing is the Liberals are losing their minds,” Hilakari said just days away from the election.

“They’re complaining to the VEC [Victorian Electoral Commission], they take videos and photos [of union volunteers] and they get in their face, and the public sees that.”

On election day, the unions manned 130 booths around the state, primarily in those six target seats, and volunteers were provided with a range of paraphernalia to boost the message, including five-metre tall flags, large floor stickers, mobile billboards and digital advertising.

The campaign didn’t end with Labor’s win on Saturday.

“Our aim was not to do recruitment,” says Stracke.

“It was to politicise and engage but what we have said right from the start was once you’ve done doorknocking, you’re more likely to step up in the workplace . . . We’ve equipped a bunch of new people to go back to their unions or workplaces and feel proud of being union and being part of the campaign.”

Trades and Labor Councils in other states are looking to replicate the techniques for the New South Wales and Queensland elections next year.

And after Saturday’s triumph, there is another Liberal leader in their sights.

“Most of these state seats match up with the marginals federally,” says Hilakari.

“We have volunteers in place who are already to turn ahead. If they didn’t like Denis Napthine, they hate Tony Abbott. They just want to go him.”

http://workinglife.org.au/2014/12/01/we-are-union-hear-us-roar/