Unions, ILO and State sign agreement

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.