Unions, ILO and State sign agreement
Fiji Times: Felix Chaudhary And Timoci Vula
Friday, March 27, 2015
The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with the Director General of ILO, Guy Ryder witness the signing of the tripartite agreement in Geneva.
The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with the Director General of ILO, Guy Ryder witness the signing of the tripartite agreement in Geneva. Picture: Supplied
AN agreement signed at the eleventh hour by Government, Fiji Trades Union Congress and Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation to address decrees which affect workers’ rights in the country has been hailed as an important step by the International Labour Organisation.
As a result of the signing, the ILO has deferred a Commission of Inquiry into Fiji – the ILO’s highest-level investigative procedure that is generally set up when a member State is accused of committing persistent and serious violations, and has repeatedly refused to address them.
The agreement was signed at the ILO Governing Body in Geneva on Wednesday by Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jioje Konrote, Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation CEO Nesbitt Hazelman and Fiji Trades Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony.
The FTUC and FCEF hailed the agreement as a positive move by Government in addressing legislation related to workers’ rights which breached ILO core conventions.
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum also expressed Government’s support and acknowledged the goodwill shown by all sides.
“The Government believes in adhering to international standards. It therefore looks forward, on a tripartite basis through the ERAB (Employment Relations Advisory Board) mechanism, to the implementation of the core ILO conventions,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said in a Government statement.
He said the Government had also agreed to specific milestones and time frames to be achieved before the November session of the ILO governing body.
“There is obviously a lot of focused attention that is required from now until then. We look forward to the co-operation of the social partners (unions and employers) for implementation.
“The goodwill shown by all sides in Geneva has to be the basis of the tripartite engagement in Fiji to ensure that we, as one team, facilitate further sustained economic growth and an improvement in the well-being of all Fijians.”
ILO director-general Guy Ryder said: “The joint efforts of the Government, employers and workers to solve social conflict have proven their value in more than 90 years of ILO history. I am confident that the values of such tripartite social dialogue will also benefit Fiji now.”
Mr Anthony said while his organisation welcomed the agreement, real progress would require commitment from the stakeholders involved.
“We are under no illusion that this will require a great deal of good faith by all parties,” he said.
“The FTUC remains committed to the restoration of workers’ rights in Fiji.
“We look forward to the full implementation of this agreement.
“This, we hope, will mark a new beginning for industrial relations in Fiji.”
FCEF president Howard Politini said the agreement provided a platform for improved relations between employers, workers and the Government.
“We are really happy that we can move forward in this issue,” Mr Politini said.
“It brings clarity to the way forward and fosters good relations between employers, employees and the nation at large and creates the right platform for moving the country forward.”
Under the tripartite agreement, the parties have consented to review labour laws, including the Essential National Industries Decree under the ERAB mechanism.
They have also agreed that labour legislation should comply with ILO core conventions.
They also agree that any further issues and recommendations for review should be negotiated through the ERAB mechanism.
GENEVA – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has welcomed an agreement signed by Fiji’s tripartite constituents to use the Employment Relations Promulgation (ERP) as the primary basis for labour management relations in the country.
The agreement was signed by the Minister for Employment, Productivity & Industrial Relations, Jioji K. Konrote, the Chief Executive of Fiji’s Commerce & Employers Federation, Nesbitt D. F. Hazelman, and General-Secretary of Fiji’s Trade Union Congress, Felix Anthony.
Fiji has been the focus of attention by the ILO Governing Body over the past years regarding allegations of breaches of ILO Convention 87 .
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder welcomed the agreement, saying that “the joint efforts of the government, employers and workers to solve social conflict have proven their value in more than 90 years of ILO history – I am confident that the values of such tripartite social dialogue will also benefit Fiji now.”
The parties agreed that the review of labour laws conducted under the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) mechanism should ensure compliance with ILO core Conventions. They also agree that any further issues and recommendations for review should be negotiated through the ERAB mechanism.
Following the tripartite agreement, the ILO Governing Body – in session until 27 March – decided to defer the decision to consider the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to its next session in November.
Intervention by National Secretary, Mr. Felix Anthony, FTUC at the 323rd Session of the ILO Governing Body Meeting in Geneva
We have after a very difficult period reached an agreement that lays down a firm path to addressing the concerns of the Fijian Workers, the Committee of Experts and the Governing Body. We recognise that a lot of effort is required on part of the social partners. An enormous amount of goodwill and good faith will also be needed to realise the goals we have set ourselves. To this end, the Workers group in Fiji is fully committed to ensure that we deliver what we have signed.
The ILO Core Conventions will be the guiding rule in all our deliberations. We have set firm deadlines for what needs to be done. We have agreed that the Employment Relations Promulgation, which is the principle labour legislation, shall form the basis of employment relations in Fiji for all workers. We have agreed that there will be a tripartite process that will drive the work plan. We have also agreed on the restoration of Trade Union check off facility. This creates the right environment to commence our work. Mr. President, we intend to meet our Social Partners soon after we return home to commence the work that we have undertaken. No Doubt, workers in Fiji will eagerly await to see the changes and the restoration of their rights in the near future. This is and can be only possible with the continued assistance and oversight of the Governing Body. In this regard we have undertaken to report to the June Session on progress and a review of the decision in November.
In the course of negotiations, difficult decisions have had to be made. We have placed the focus firmly on workers in Fiji and how in the shortest period of time we could restore rights and dignity at the workplace. Questions often arose as to whether what we seek to achieve will be honored by Government and I must admit, at times this got me seriously thinking. However, I am convinced and have been assured by Government
of their desire to act upon the commitments in the Agreement and create a new environment conducive to harmonious labour management relations. I thank the Attorney General of Fiji for reassuring the Governing Body that Government is serious about its obligations in the Agreement and will act upon them in good faith. Mr. President, there can be no progress without hope and commitment. We will persevere. If at the end of day, we are not able to achieve what we have now set out to achieve, we all can say that we made the best efforts possible and that the GB will have absolutely no doubt on the course of action come November. I certainly hope that won’t be necessary.
Mr. President, Finally I would like to place on record the appreciation of the workers of Fiji to the DG, the Office and members of the GB for the advice, support and encouragement offered to us to reach the agreement we have. Without your collective support, this would not be possible. But above all, this case demonstrates that the ILO Supervisory Mechanisms do work.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak.
FTUC National Secretary Mr Felix Anthony
Commission of Inquiry into Fiji Averted
The ILO Governing Body today (25th March) agreed to defer the decision to appoint a Commission of Inquiry until the November Session in light of the Tripartite Agreement signed by the FTUC, FCEF and Government.
The FTUC, FCEF and Government today signed an agreement to ensure that workers’ rights in Fiji would conform to the ILO Core Labour Standards. The Parties met after agreeing on preliminary matters to negotiate an agreement.
The Agreement lays down the groundwork for the amendment of all labour laws that violate Core Labour Standards including the Decrees. The Parties agreed that the Employment Relations Promulgation (ERP) would form the primary basis for labour management relations in Fiji. The FTUC maintains that all workers must be covered by the ERP as it is the principle Employment relations law.
The work of the Employment Relations Advisory Board that reviewed all labour laws noting the recommendations of Committee of Experts of ILO Report and ILO Conventions be the will be taken into consideration when the ERAB negotiates any further issues raised by any social partners. Any recommendations shall comply with ILO Standards. Government has undertaken to draft legislation based on the recommendations of ERAB and will present the draft Bill to ERAB for vetting prior to being presented to Cabinet and Parliament.
The Parties have agreed to a maximum time limit for such an exercise. Government must present the Bill to Parliament at the latest by end of August 2015 and after passed by Parliament must implement the new laws at the latest by end of October 2015. These timelines must be observed.
Government has also agreed to reinstate Union check off with immediate effect. This is Union subscription deductions that Government had ceased some years ago. This is a positive move.
The parties also agreed to submit a joint implementation report to the ILO Governing Body in June. This report will indicate the progress of the work that the Parties have undertaken by entering into this agreement. The Governing Body will be able to monitor progress or lack of it and may offer guidance.
The Decision to establish a Commission of Inquiry has been deferred to the November session of the Governing Body. This decision will largely depend on the Government meeting its commitments as stated in the Agreement. This agreement is witnessed by the Director General of ILO.
The FTUC welcomes the agreement reached. We are under no illusion that this will require a great deal of good faith by all parties. The FTUC remains committed to the restoration of workers’ rights in Fiji. The agreement to reinstate check off is also positive and will encourage good faith. We look forward to the full implementation of this agreement. This we hope will mark a new beginning for Industrial Relations in Fiji.
FTUC PRESS RELEASE : 20.3.15
AG Misleads UN Yet Again
During the last Hearing of the United Nations Human Rights Council, one recommendation was that Fiji establishes a Constitutional Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the 2013 Constitution and carry out a national consultation to ensure that the Constitution is reflective of the will of the people. The Attorney General responded and advised the Council that the Constitution that came into force on 7th September 2013 “is the expression of the will of the people” and therefore any amendment of the Constitution would only be conducted through the process stipulated under the Constitution whereby Parliamentary approval must be sought for a referendum.
The FTUC disputes this assertion as thoroughly misleading and borders on a lie. The expression of the will of the people was captured by the Yash Ghai draft after more than 7000 submissions by people and organizations from around the country. This Government thrashed that draft constitution and imposed the current Constitution on the people of Fiji. This fact is on record and no amount of government propaganda will change this. The FTUC calls on Government to demonstrate sincerity and honesty and not mislead the international community as this only brings disrepute to Fiji. This has become common knowledge and a serious problem which is also recognized at the ILO.
The provision to change the Constitution was the brainchild of the very people who run Government now. The AG is in a position to ensure that Parliament approves a referendum but will not do so. Instead he uses the excuse that the
Constitution will not allow a referendum. He conveniently forgot to tell the UN that it was his regime that imposed such harsh conditions that it is almost impossible to change the Constitution without his concurrence. All for the sake of protecting those responsible for the coups and the atrocities that followed over many years and many of it criminal in nature. These atrocities include denial of basic human rights guaranteed under the UN Charter.
It is time that this Government is put under scrutiny whenever they make any pronouncements abroad. The FTUC also calls upon the media to be vigilant and seriously carry out its responsibility to ensure accountability and take to task anyone or Government and not just critics of Government. Sadly we do not see that today and partly so because we continue to live in a dictatorship and restrictions remain, despite elections and so called democracy.
The FTUC calls upon the AG and his Government to call a referendum on the Constitution. If the AG truly believes that the Constitution is an “expression of the will of the people”, he should have no hesitation in conducting a referendum.
Similarly, the AG has advised the UN that Government MOU on the future of labour relations reflects the intentions of the social partners. He again conveniently forgot to tell the UN that the social partners disagree and its MOU does not address the real issues in regards to the denial of workers’ rights and the continued effect of the decrees he imposed that violate International Conventions.
Felix Anthony National Secretary FTUC
Talks a ‘sham’
Reporter – Felix Chaudhary – Fiji Times
Thursday, March 12, 2015
Picture: Fiji Trades Union Congress National Secretary Felix Anthony.
THE Fiji Trades Union Congress has labelled recent talks organised by the Government for a proposed review of the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree as a “sham”.
FTUC National Secretary Felix Anthony questioned why trade unions and the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation were not invited to the consultations which were hosted by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and Employment Minister Jioje Konrote earlier this week.
“This is just a show, prior to Government meeting with the International Labour Organisation’s governing body in Geneva,” he said.
“The ILO and its governing body has already made very clear that a number of decrees have to be repealed and this includes the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree and Administration of Justice Decree, among others. The A-G knows this because the recommendation from the ILO and its governing body are with Government.”
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum issued a statement on Tuesday saying employer and employee groups that fell under the provisions of the decree had had consultations with himself and Employment Minister Jioje Konrote on Monday.
He said any changes to the decree would take place within the context of ensuring sustainability of employment, job creation and the economic well-being of all Fijians.
The A-G said once the review was completed, any proposed amendments to the law would be submitted to Cabinet for consideration and eventually be introduced in Parliament.
FTUC comments on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stance on Fiji Human Rights
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has demonstrated his naivety when commenting on Fiji as an example to the world. Clearly this “High Commissioner” is not aware about Fiji other than what he has heard from the Prime Minister. He has not researched what the people of Fiji have gone through over the past few years since this Prime Minister carried out a military coup. We would appreciate if the High Commissioner sought information on Fiji’s record at the sister UN organization, the ILO, he may have received some very crucial and correct information .
The ITUC and FTUC are disapppointed at the comments that have been uttered by the UN High Office based on what the PM of Fiji has solely informed him on.
See Article below Fiji Sun online March 05 16:26 2015
Fiji Receives High Praise From UN High Commissioner For Human Rights
The Government’s progress in delivering human rights to all Fijians has been warmly praised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
During talks in Geneva with the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, the High Commissioner spoke of the PM’s determined leadership on human rights reforms and said it was a rare pleasure to meet with the Head of Government of a country making such exemplary progress.
As examples, he cited Fiji’s complete abolition of the death penalty – a policy he described as noxious – and the progress it is making in ratifying the United Nations Convention Against Torture ( UNCAT).
Congratulating the Prime Minister on what he called his fine speech to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, the High Commissioner said his office wanted to use Fiji as an example to other countries which had yet to implement the same kind of progressive measures.
He also expressed a desire to visit Fiji to witness the reforms that are being implemented – something the Prime Minister said he would welcome. During their talks, the PM had again highlighted the priority the Government is giving to implementing a range of socio-economic rights, such as the right to clean water. And he repeated his invitation for UN Special Rapporteurs on Water and Education to come to Fiji to examine the progress being made in these areas.
The High Commissioner also praised Fiji for what he termed its enormous contributions to the international community in the area of peace-keeping. He said Fiji had demonstrated clearly that the size of any country was no barrier to the impact it could make in multilateral affairs.
In addition, the High Commissioner said his Office wanted to work more closely with Fiji’s Mission to the UN in Geneva to step up its assistance to the Pacific region.
Government resorts to Bully Tactics
Recently the Fijian Teachers Union has been vocal on the conduct of the Ministry of Education and its Minister. Various promotions were questioned which appeared to be unfair. The Ministry staff apparently were uneasy with anyone questioning their actions including their Minister. The Ministry threatened to stop deductions of credit union dues and other welfare deduction to the Union. This prompted the FTA to apologise in the traditional manner to the Minister.
Interestingly, The Ministry officials embarked on a lecture on professional behavior to the Union via an email to the Industrial Officer of FTA. Clearly the email demonstrated the lack of understanding of the demarcation between the role of trade unions and teachers as professionals. Trade Unions are there to defend the rights of their members and in doing so, if it disagrees with the actions of the Minister or his staff, there is nothing wrong. Trade Unions are not there simply to just promote professional advancement but also to stand up for members who feel they have been unfairly treated. The FTA was doing simply that. This unfortunate incident stinks. Clearly the Ministry of Education remains in the dictatorship mode (even after elections) and its actions can only be described as BULLY.
Does this now mean that Teachers Unions will have to tow the line or be victims of threat and bully tactics by the Ministry of Education? We at FTUC say shame on the Ministry and that this is just another demonstration of denial of trade union rights in Fiji.
Felix Anthony National Secretary FTUC
Fiji Sun Editorial Comment today (pg 42. 5.3.2015)
The FTUC responds to the actions of the Fiji Sun who chose to comment , through its editorial column today, on a Media Statement sent out yesterday on “ FTUC on PM’s Address to the UN Human Rights Council” without publishing it. Below is the email sent to the Fiji Sun Reporter, Mr Nemani Delaibatiki, by the National Secretary FTUC, Mr Felix Anthony, expressing dismay at the lack of ethical and balanced reporting by Mr Delaibatiki, the Training Editor of the Fiji Sun.
I read once again with bemusement your editorial comment in your paper. You have chosen to comment on my press release without even reporting it. I ask if this is ethical at all. Clearly it is unpalatable for you to see any condemnation of Governments actions, no matter how ruthless or criminal in nature their actions are.
You have claimed that I have “resurrected the events of the past to substantiate”our “ campaign to discredit the Government.” I do not discredit the Government. The Governments own actions of the past do that very well. You do admit that the past was dark in the following paragraphs. However, we cannot forget the atrocities of the past and call it “broken records.” You would surely not say that if your son or a close family member was a victim. You are one of the privileged ones who has chosen to believe every word as gospel that Government says. As a journalist and an experienced one, you are doing discredit to your profession.
Understand, that when the Prime Minister stands up on the world stage and makes pronouncements as he did, he must be open to scrutiny. He must be reminded that what he said is untrue. That is what we call democracy. Of course our Prime Minister supposedly champions accountability. So why should he not be made accountable for his and his Governments actions. Why should you attempt to shield him. Don’t you believe in accountability?
In so far as the elections go and the question of mandate , let me simply say that despite all the skullduggery and media bias (which you were also part off) during and after the elections, the PDP received in excess of 18,000 votes. I also have the mandate of workers in this country. That’s our mandate to speak. What mandate do you have to tell me that the public is sick and tired of what happened in the past?
Nemani, I understand you have a job to keep. In the process please also try and have a conscious. It is indisputable that even today workers rights are denied. You are not allowed to speak your mind let alone print them. The very fact that your newspaper does not print our press releases indicates how free the press is or independent. Decrees that violate our rights cannot be challenged in Court and you say “we put all this behind us”. Well if we did, we would not be able to move forward.
You continue to harp on FTUC boycott of ERAB. Yes we chose not to participate until we are clear as to what role ERAB is to play other than a talk shop and a show for the world to see that “we are talking.” That’s a reasonable call. Would you not want to know why you are invited to any meeting? Common sense Nemani , nothing so complicated or sinister. The FTUC is willing to move forward and if you see my press release (which you did not publish) on the MOU you will see that I have called on Government to sign the MOU that was agreed to by all parties and the ILO Contacts Mission. You choose to ignore that. Moving forward for us does not mean we agree to everything the Government shoves down our throat as it means to you.
Nemani lets be clear. We want our rights back. We will not beg for them. They are our birth rights. Equality and justice belongs to all citizens of Fiji. There cannot be exemptions like immunity for criminal behavior. The fact that you support exemptions for the privileged and dislike “broken records” that remind you of the “dark past” tells us you condone such criminal behavior.
I don’t want to issue a press release knowing you will never report it. I will however put a copy of this email on the FTUC website for the record.
You have a good day