Right to Strike Reaffirmed at ILO – ITUC

Mine workers on strike in Fiji (Picture : fightback.org.nz)

By ITUC

Sharan Burrows – General Secretary

“Brussels, 25 February 2015 (ITUC OnLine): A breakthrough has been made at the International Labour Organization following two years during which employers at the International Labour Organization brought the UN body’s global supervisory system to a standstill, in an attempt to eliminate decades of ILO jurisprudence supporting the right to strike. Union and employer representatives have now reached an understanding at a special ILO meeting this week to end the impasse, based on recognition of the right to take industrial action, backed by explicit recognition from governments of the right to strike, linked to ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association. The agreement comes on the back of a hugely successful international union mobilisation on 18 February, which involved more than 100 actions in over 60 countries in support of the right to strike.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “Having created the crisis, employer groups and some governments were refusing to allow the issue to be taken to the International Court of Justice even though the ILO Constitution says it should be. We’ve now managed to negotiate a solution which protects the fundamental right of workers to take strike action, and allows the ILO to resume fully its work to supervise how governments respect their international labour standards obligations.”

Fair Trade Certification for Sugar Under Scrutiny Again

(Picture : theprisma.co.uk)

“Government’s and Fiji Sugar Corporation’s refusal to respect workers’ rights in the Sugar Industry has again endangered the fair trade certification which Fiji Sugar enjoys. Millions of dollars are earned through this certification that go towards farmers and community projects by the Cane Producers Associations set up by the authorities to counter the Farmers Unions.
It is time that the Government and FSC take heed of their obligations and ensure respect for workers’ rights in the industry. They will have no one else to blame if the certification is lost but themselves. In any case respecting workers’ fundamental rights is the right thing to do. Fair Trade or No Fair Trade Certification. The FTUC urges Government to act now.”
Felix Anthony

FTUC National Secretary

(Contents of the letter by our sister union reps sent to PM are shown below)

 

 

Prime Minister of Fiji,
Frank Bainimarama
Suva, Fiji
26 January 2015

Labour Rights in the Fiji Sugar Sector

Hon. Prime Minister,
We are writing on behalf of Fairtrade International, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF).
As you set your government’s agenda for 2015, we are certain that ensuring the long-term viability of the sugar industry, which accounts for 40% of merchandise exports, 12% of GDP and which employs 25% of the workforce, is high on the government’s list of priorities. At the same time, we recognise the challenge posed to all ACP countries including Fiji from the removal of production quotas on European beet sugar, which now put the livelihoods of cane farmers and mill workers, and the survival of sugar cane industries at risk.

As you know, Fairtrade has supported cane growers in Fiji to organize themselves into smallholder organisations and to achieve Fairtrade certification, so that their product can be sold as Fairtrade refined sugar in export markets. For the past three years, sugar buyers have paid several millions of dollars to the Fijian cane farmers as Fairtrade Premium, which farmers invest in their businesses and their communities. This has had a positive social and economic impact on the lives of Fiji farmers and
their rural communities.

At the same time, we remain deeply concerned by the serious restrictions on freedom of association and collective bargaining previously decreed by the government, which have been criticized by the International Labour Organization. Further, owning and controlling the Fiji Sugar Corporation, the
government has and continues to refuse to recognize the union representing sugar mill workers and has failed to respect their existing collective agreement. This situation has persisted since 2011. When workers sought to exercise their right to strike over wages, police and military were deployed, and workers reported that they were harassed and intimidated until they were forced to abandon their action. These actions by the government have put at risk the success of sugar cane farmers who today benefit from Fairtrade. An ILO mission to Fiji in October 2014 confirmed serious violations of the right to freedom of association, which are having a direct and serious impact on Fijian workers, and urged your government to act.

In order to commence a fresh start, we respectfully call upon the new Government to address this situation urgently. In particular we would urge that the Government:

1. Consistent with Fiji’s obligations under ratified ILO conventions, and in line with ILO observations, revise laws and decrees so that workers are able to exercise their right to freedom of association, to organise and to bargain collectively;
2. Initiate good faith collective negotiations with the trade unions representing sugar mill workers with the aim of reaching a new collective agreement as soon as possible;
3. Resolve the more than 30 disputes in the sugar sector concerning breaches of the collective agreement and unfair disciplinary actions that remain unresolved (some for over 5 years) before the Employment Relations Tribunal;
4. Reform the new Election Code so that union elections and registration remain with the Registrar of Trade Unions rather than the Election Commission, whose decisions are unreviewable;

We remain at your disposal to support resolution of the aforementioned issues, which we believe to be critical for the future of the Fiji sugar industry. We know that the coming years will be challenging ones for the long term sustainability of the Fijian sugar cane industry, and we are convinced that securing the rights of workers in the mills, alongside existing benefits received through Fairtrade for the sugar farmers, is now both urgent and vital. We are available to meeting with your government to discuss these steps together.

Respectfully,
Sharan Burrow,General Secretary – ITUC

Ron Oswald, General Secretary – IUF

Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive Officer – Fairtrade International

Letter-January-2015

PM Again With the Promises to ILO

The PM has once again done his traditional act of writing to the Director General of ILO Guy Ryder giving assurances of Government action on the labour laws. This has become a bit of a tradition where the PM writes and makes promises which are never kept. He has been at it since 2011 in the hope that the GB will believe him and defer any further decision on Fiji’s continued violation of workers rights and Core Labour Standards.

The FTUC has made its position very clear and is not prepared to be part of the continuing talks that don’t seem to have an end.

Please click on the link below to retrieve the letter

LETTER TO ILO – PM

FTUC National Secretary, Felix Anthony recently wrote to the the Labour Minister, Jioji Konorote highighting FTUC’s concerns about the ever changing stances of the government.

The contents of the letter are as follows:

Hon. Jioji Konrote
Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations
P O Box 2216
Government Buildings
SUVA

Dear Sir,

RE: GOVERNMENT’S DRAFT MOU ON THE FUTURE OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

We thank you for the Draft MOU which we received on Tuesday 17th February 2015.

We note that the Government’s Draft is a major deviation from the original agreed draft signed by the Employers Group and the Workers Group during the visit of the ILO Contact Mission on 11th October 2014. The content of the MOU was circulated to all three social partners before the 10th of October 2014 and parties were free to make suggestions for change. Amendments were made and in fact an amendment suggested by Government on the very day of signing was agreed to by the two social partners. Unfortunately, Government decided not to sign at the last minute. We were then assured by yourself that Government remained committed to respecting workers’ rights and ILO Conventions ratified by Government. We have since waited for Government to act upon its undertaking. Now just weeks before the ILO Governing Body Meeting we receive a new document for signing.

The FTUC has considered the proposed MOU by Government carefully and advises that we cannot agree to be a party to a document that does not correctly reflect the position of all social partners and the undertaking that the Prime Minister gave the Director General of ILO in his correspondence of 23rd May 2012 for the following reasons.

It is apparent that the Government is using this opportunity to get the social partners to legitimize the adoption of the Constitution of Fiji. The FTUC has always taken the position that any Constitution needs the approval of the people of Fiji either through their elected representatives or by a referendum. This was not the case. We believe that this matter is not relevant in this instance.

Your second paragraph highlights the Bill of Rights but disregards the limitations within the Constitution on each of those rights. These limitations could be interpreted to allow for the Right to Freedom of Association to be restricted – a concern raised by the ILO mission. We are concerned that they could be cited to allow the current repressive decrees to continue in effect, thus denying workers in the public and private sectors their fundamental rights. This denial of rights has been comprehensively covered in the reports of the Committee of Experts of the ILO, the ILO mission report, and in resolutions of the Asia Pacific Regional Conference of ILO and the Governing Body of the ILO.

You will recall that the ERAB Sub Committee has spent considerable time in the review of the ERP, the Decrees, Reports of the Committee of Experts and Conventions recently ratified by Government. The work of this Committee was extensively reported to the Governing Body of ILO by Government Representatives. A schedule of all meetings and attendance by officials of each Social Partner was also appended to the report accompanied by a letter from the Prime Minister to the Director General of ILO dated 24th January 2014. The Governing Body took note of the work that had been undertaken. The work of the ERAB was to have been taken to Cabinet for approval. This was the undertaking that the Prime Minister gave and indeed reflected in the original MOU that was signed by the two social partners.

Your proposed MOU now calls for a fresh review and notably to ensure compatibility with only the Constitution with no reference to compliance with Core ILO Conventions. You only state that ILO shall be part of the review. Mr. Minister, we need a reassurance and undertaking that your Government is indeed serious about ensuring full compliance with the ILO Core Conventions and will act upon the reports of the Committee of Experts immediately. This needs to be reflected in any MOU that FTUC will enter into. There is absolutely no need to conduct an entire review again which will be time consuming and could go on for years thus delaying any remedial action now. I take this opportunity to remind the Government that the ILO has since 2011 raised concerns over the decrees and violations. The government has given many reasons for the delay in acting upon the concerns raised. This MOU is going to further allow Government to indefinitely delay action.

May I quote the Prime Minister from his correspondence of 23rd May 2012 to the Director General of ILO at paragraph 10:

“My Government has already activated a process with the tripartite social partners at the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) meeting of 11th April, 2012 in order to initiate further steps to reform and modernize the current labour laws. A tripartite technical Advisory Committee of ERAB has been appointed at the meeting tasked to review all current labour laws relative to the Articles of the eight ILO Core Conventions and other relevant conventions Fiji has ratified. The Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment is expected to receive the ERAB recommendations for his consideration in July 2012 before Cabinet is advised in August 2012.”

The second last paragraph of the proposed MOU, is in our view, only applicable if remedial action is taken to ensure full compliance of the Conventions and report of the Committee of Experts. It was never intended to just keep ILO engaged while the violations continued indefinitely.

Mr. Minister, these are just some of the reasons we announce our disagreement to your proposed MOU. We also hope that Government is not going to attempt to engage the social partners in the last weeks before the Governing Body Meeting to explain away why it has failed to act so far. Indeed this has been a trend. It is for this reason that we have put our position in writing.

I urge you Minister to sign the MOU agreed to with the Contacts Mission and for your Government to take some concrete positive steps to restore workers’ rights without undue delay. Indeed this was the expectation of the Governing Body when it last met in November 2014 and received the Contact Mission’s Report which once again confirmed the serious violations and inaction of Government thus far.

Yours Sincerely,

FELIX ANTHONY
NATIONAL SECRETARY

Copy: Director General – ILO
Regional Director – ILO
Chairperson Employers Group – GB ILO
Chairperson Workers Group – GB ILO
President – Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation

Encl: MOU (Original Signed by Employers and Workers Rep.)
MOU (Government Proposal)

Letter to Labour Minister

Losses for Govt Owned Entities, Including FBC

The latest Auditor General’s reports for government commercial companies highlights that out of the 15 entities audited, Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited, Rewa Rice Limited and Fiji Hardwood Corporation recorded losses in their operations.

The 2014 report which has been tabled in parliament highlights that the state owned broadcaster, FBC has been incurring losses for the last four years – $516,943 loss in 2010, $1.137 million loss in 2011, $7.1 million loss in 2012 and $5.6 million in 2013.

The Auditor General’s report states that the deficit of $342,887 for the shareholder’s equity in FBC’s Statement of Financial position indicate that the company does not have enough assets which stands at $22.4 million to match all FBC’s borrowing to external parties totalling $22.7 million.

The Auditor General said the major component of the liability is interest bearing borrowings of $19.4 million in 2013 guaranteed by the government.

The audit said that the losses reported for FBC for the past four years demonstrate high operating costs incurred especially as the result of the expansion of the company into the television business and the company’s inability to generate adequate revenue in addition to the government contribution to finance its business costs.

The Auditor General’s report said that the company may also need some expert review of its business operations to identify areas that may need to be streamlined to reduce its business costs.

Meanwhile the audit says FBC’s recorded net loss of $7.1 million in 2012 compared to a net loss of $1.13 million was mainly attributed to the increase in depreciation expenses from the upgrading works relating to the launch of the company’s TV services which were still in progress in 2011.

There were also increases in program expenses, motor vehicle expenses, salaries and wages and finance costs.

The 2013 net loss was $5.6 million.

Total expenditure for the state owned broadcaster in 2012 was $13.6 million while the expenditure for 2013 was $14 million.

The total income was $6.6 million dollars in 2012 and $8.4 million in 2013.

It has also been noted that the company accounts for all government grants received after 1st January 2010 as capital contribution.

This is a departure from International Accounting Standards accounting for government grants provided to compensate the company for expenses incurred to be recognized in profit or loss as other income on a systematic basis in the same period that the expenses are recognized.

Rewa Rice Limited recorded a loss of $54,497 in 2009 compared to a profit of $8,204 in 2008.

The loss is mainly attributed to the decrease in sales by $177,874.

For Fiji Hardwood Corporation, losses incurred in 2007 were $25.8 million and $1.9 million in 2008.

The net loss recorded by the Corporation resulted mainly from the changes in the fair value of forest assets.

12 government commercial companies have recorded growth or profits according to the 2014 Auditor General’s reports.

Airports Fiji Limited continues to record strong growth as it posted a $12.9 million profit in 2013 compared to $11.2 million in 2012.

This resulted mainly from an increase in total revenue by $1.1 million and a reduction in operating and finance expenses for the year.

The Fiji Electricity Authority made $32.5 million profit in 2013 compared to $75.3 million in 2012.

The reduction was mainly attributed to the increase in operating expenditure, specifically, fuel costs.

Fiji Ports Corporation Limited and subsidiaries recorded a net profit of $13.7 million in 2013 which is an increase of $6.4 million compared to 2012.

The increase was mainly attributed to the improvement in other revenue collections by $6.5 million.

The Fiji Ships and heavy Industries Limited recorded a profit of $1.08 million in 2013 compared to $965,998 profit in 2012.

The Fiji Development Bank recorded a consolidated operating profit of $4.8 million in 2014 compared to $5.5 million in 2013.

This is attributed to a decline in income received from interest from loans and reduction in fees.

PAFCO also recorded a profit in 2013.

Their profit stood at 2.1 million dollars in 2013 compared to a loss of $549,736 in 2012.

Housing Authority recorded a total comprehensive income after tax of $423,000 in 2013 compared to $523,000 in 2012.

The decline in comprehensive income by $100,000 was mainly due to increase in the cost of sales for the housing lots developed by the Authority.

http://fijivillage.com/news-feature/FBC-record-losses-from-2010-to-2013-259skr/

Time for Government to Act

By Felix Anthony

FTUC National Secretary

The FTUC has since 2011 pursued with ITUC and the ILO complaints against the Fijian Government’s violation of Core Labour Standards which Fiji is obligated to respect by virtue of being a member of ILO and also by virtue of ratifying all these Conventions.

The ILO Committee of Experts and the Governing Body of ILO since 2011 has called upon the Fiji Government to act on these violations and ensure that workers’ fundamental rights are respected. The Fiji Government has not paid heed to respect these rights and continued to impose Decrees on Trade Unions and Unionists even to the extent of classifying Trade Unionists or employees of Trade Unions as “public officers” thus denying them their political rights.

The Governing Body recognizing the seriousness of the situation decided upon sending a Contacts Mission to Fiji. The Mission after being expelled by the Government in 2013 was allowed into the Country in October 2014 after the Governing Body issued an ultimatum that it would decide on a Commission of Enquiry into Fiji if the Contacts Mission was not allowed and if some contrite steps were not taken to restore workers’ rights.

The Mission found that all the allegations of violations of workers’ rights were serious and needed immediate remedial action. The Mission proceeded to assist the Social Partners on the way forward as it was mandated to do. A Memorandum Of Understanding was circulated to all three social partners who after negotiations agreed to sign. Unfortunately Government backed out at the time of signing.Now we have just weeks before the next Governing Body meeting with Government proposing a totally different MOU.

The FTUC has decided it will not be taken for a ride with endless talks. What we need from Government now is ACTION. We publish the original MOU that was agreed to by all partners, the new MOU that Government drafted and made available just last week and the FTUC response.

You be the judge on who is not being sincere and honest.

MOU – Workers & Employers

MOU – Govt

Letter to Labour Minister

Why Strike?

From Industri All

“Eliminating this human right would have serious repercussions on us all.

Here are five key reasons why we need the right to strike:

  1. Striking is a last resort but sometimes the only tool for workers to protect themselves.

  2. To avoid being at the complete mercy of employers.

  3. To give more of a balance between worker and employer power.

  4. Without it, more and more governments will ban industrial action and punish people who dare to strike.

  5. Most strikes are over pay and better working conditions. Without the threat of strike action, corporations will be able to make bigger profits, while working conditions will get worse.”

http://www.industriall-union.org/5-reasons-why-we-need-the-right-to-strike

Fight for the Right to Strike

Daniel Urai with disgruntled Sheraton workers on strike

With the restraint put on workers in Fiji and their Right to Strike, the FTUC calls upon affiliates, human and workers’ rights advocates, civil rights organisations and other interested parties to support the Global Day of Action for the Right to Strike.

Convention 87 Right to Strike was recognised by the ILO in 1927 and ever since has been used as a most effective and the last resort by employees to air their grievances.

The last time workers in Fiji exercised this Right was when hotel workers at Sheraton went on strike after issues were not properly addressed by managers. The government labelled the action as illegal and proceeded to put an end to the walkout by the hotel employees.

The incident was also included in a Report submitted by FTUC .

The FTUC recognises the need to have this Right for workers in the country as more and more restrictions are placed on them. More industries are being roped in under the ENI (which takes away their Right to Strike), the NMW is still at a value that is way below the poverty level and many more violations are still being dished out to  Fiji labour . TheFTUC is adamant that the Right to Strike is necessary for the lives of workers and their families.

We call on supporters of Workers’ Rights to continue the fight for the Right to Strike and demand that the government recognises and lets workers utilise this Convention for their benefits and the benefits of their families.

FTUC Women’s Committee 2015-2016

The FTUC presents the members of the Women’s Committee for 2015 – 2016. The women were elected during the 45th BDC held on Saturday, February 7, 2015 in Nadi.

Teresa Ali (USPPHIJSU) – Chairperson
Mere Railala (NUHCTIE) – Vice Chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losalini Ulacake (FPSA) – Vice Chair
Melia Vuki (NUHCTIE) – Secretary
Rukshana Ali (FLGOA) – Treasurer

Committee Members

Salote Lawakeli (FASA)
Sima Kumar ( FTU)
Emi Silau (PAFCOEU)
Aruna Gounder (FEWA)

These  women have vowed to look after the welfare of women members within the FTUC and also female workers in general.

The Committee has urged female members of the 26 affiliates to develop more interest and commitment towards the betterment of women workers in the country.

New Youth Committee Vows to Uphold Union Values

The newly and re-elected Youth Committee members have sworn to commit themselves to upholding and fighting for the rights of young workers.

Re-elected to their positions wereChairperson Rajnesh Lingam and Secretary Mohnish Dutt  who led the meetings held on Saturday Feb 7, 2015.

The Committee members with the new inclusions are as follows:

President Rajnesh Lingam (FTU) – unopposed
Vice President 1 Emosi Fong (SAUF) – unopposed
Vice President 2 Abdul Israaz (FLGOA) – unopposed
Secretary Alvin Singh (NUFCW) – unopposed
Assistant Secretary Setareki Dawa (FSGWU) – unopposed

The Committee will also address the issue of motivating and encouraging young workers and young minds to mobilise and organise in their workplaces.

NMW Unrealisitic : FTUC

By RNZNews

The Fiji Trades Union Congress says the new minimum wage is too low and still does not come close to the rate set by the Wages Council many years ago.

Felix Anthony Photo: RNZ

The newly re-installed general secretary of the Congress, Felix Anthony, says the national minimum wage needs to meet Fiji’s poverty line at least.

The Fiji government has announced the minimum wage will go up 16 percent to $2.32 Fijian per hour from July the 1st.

It estimates about 100,000 workers will get more in their weekly wages but Mr Anthony says it’s not good enough.

At the moment we estimate the poverty line to be around about $187 a week for a family of four. The starting point needs to be a realistic starting point and not at $2 – $2.30. Because the gap is just too much.

The General Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, Felix Anthony.

Full Interview on RNZInternational