Monitoring of workplace standards crucial – FTUC

International Occupational Hazard and Safety Day

Participants of the “World Day for Safety and Health at Work” workshop at Holiday Inn, Suva.

On April 28th, tripartite partners of the ILO met together for a workshop on the theme Join in Building the Culture of Prevention on OHS”. More than 100 participants attended the programme including delegates from PNG. FTUC was represented by 10 participants, some of whom traveled from Levuka. The guest speaker from FTUC  was Mr. Rouhit Karan Singh, the Assistant National Secretary. Below is the speech that was delivered in the evening programme where the OHS awards were announced.

 

SPEECH BY Mr Rouhit Karan Singh,

REPRESENTATIVE OF FIJI TRADES UNION CONGRESS

WORLD DAY FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK

28th APRIL, 2015,HOLIDAY INN,SUVA

 

Join in Building the Culture of Prevention on OHS”

 

  1. Chief Guest-Minister for Labour-PNG,Hon. Benjamin Poponawa
  2. Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations,Hon. Jioji K Konrote
  3. Director General and Representatives from International Labor Organization
  4. Acting PS and Representatives from Ministry for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations
  5. Representative from Fiji Employers Federation
  6. Invited Guests,
  7. Trade Union Delegates
  8. Ladies & Gentlemen
  9. Brothers and Sisters

 

Today, I stand tall in the capacity of Assistant National Secretary of Fiji Trades Union Congress to be part of this celebration.

I am indeed proud to state that I’m not here to represent the 30,000 or so odd trade union members but all the workers throughout Fiji. Also in our own dimensions , we all are workers.

More so, it gives me great pleasure to extend a very warm welcome from my colleagues at the Fiji Trades Union Congress.

April 28th marks a historical and a day of significance for all the workers throughout the world and FTUC is proud to be associated with this year’s celebrations to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Being one of the tripartite partners bestowed with this responsibility of ensuring and promoting a safe work practices and standards, it has become very important to work towards achieving a safe work environment.

This year’s theme is “Join in Building the Culture of Prevention on OSH”.

The culture of prevention cannot be dealt in isolation and needs genuine commitment of the Government, Employers and the Workers.

Every year hundreds of workplace accidents occur.

ILO estimates that occupational accidents and work-related diseases cause over 6,300 deaths every day or 2.3 million fatalities a year. Of this huge loss, about 350,000 deaths are caused by occupational accidents and close to 2 million by work-related diseases.

Non-fatal accidents affect an even larger number – over 313 million workers are injured every year – while non-fatal work-related diseases are estimated to affect 160 million each year.

I pay tribute to those lives lost in Nepal earthquake and I pay tribute to many workers who have been victims of OHS diseases and injuries.

We cannot lay back and wonder about the figures. The fact remains that it’s time for us to take urgent steps collectively to reinforce our action and redouble our efforts to create safe and healthy workplaces for all workers.

Communication is a very vital tool in OHS and we need to identify and discuss new trends and prospects for promoting activities for safety and health at work, for ensuring safe working conditions and protecting workers’ health.
It has been rightly stated that a successful OHS management system requires the commitment of top management to a culture of prevention, including through the allocation of sufficient resources. This includes awareness, training, maintenance, personal protective equipment’s etc.

But just as important is the participation of workers, who play a crucial role in recognizing and identifying hazards; contributing to well-informed and context specific risk assessment; planning effective preventive measures; and implementing prevention and mitigation measures.
The goal of OHS strategy is to prevent workplace death, injury and disease. But when it happens, workers and their dependents must be supported and I urge that all Employers to have adequate coverage for workmen compensation and adequate insurance.

The death and injury rate at workplace is obviously unacceptable to the union movement and one of the most important tasks for unions therefore is not only to protect their members from the hazards at their work but in broader perspective – the overall impact it may create to the family, society and the country as a whole.

And in what better way than through prevention.

Work related diseases can be prevented or decreased if all parties are committed in ensuring safety through OHS compliance.

To comply, FTUC urges all the workplace in Fiji to implement OHS standards, have OHS Committees as per Workplace Regulations and Health and Safety at Work Act 1996 respectively and provide necessary facilities and amenities.

The signing of MOU with PNG reflects that Fiji is blessed with beautiful piece of legislation and it only needs proper policing and implementation.

In addition, we urge that the Ministry of Employment,Productivity and Industrial Relations to come hard on workplaces so that they fulfill the requirements in obtaining compliance certificates and as such our workers are provided with safer and better workplace with all the facilities and amenities. The governing legislations must be fully implemented and violators should be held accountable.

For all the inspectors, the workers have lot of trust and faith in you.Please assist all the workers who come your assistance.

There are many workers around the country who have suffered or died from occupational hazards whilst in employment. Many workers have lost their jobs by reporting themselves?

Many cases have so far gone unreported which is of great concern to the Trade Union Congress.

As a deterrent, those employers failing to report on such an important issue should be prosecuted. We believe that to ensure that workers are safe and provided with a disease-free environment while they are at work, the co-operation and understanding of all tripartite partners is equally important and more so very vital.

Today, whilst we discuss this important subject, I hope that progress is made on a joint approach towards an appropriate and applicable OHS management system as a model for Fiji workplace situations. Being on NOHSAB gives me satisfaction to contribute for the betterment of the workers in Fiji.

The trade union calls on governments, employers, workers and their organizations to collaborate in the development and implementation of national policies and effective strategies aimed at preventing occupational and work-related diseases.

We don’t want to loose our fellow workers due to others negligence.

We pay heavily for the loss of productivity and economic waste as employees fall sick. Much has been written about the cost of industrial expenses but few attempts have been made to access it accurately.

We only capture incidence of those who are in working life. What happens to those who retire and die of diseases which may have been contracted due to his occupation.

Finally, I wish to emphasize again that proper implementation and monitoring of workplace standards is crucial.

Effective control is the best way to ensure effective implementation!

This is the only way forward in Building on the culture of Prevention on OHS.

Just to draw your attention, Lautoka City Council have partnered with ILO and JICA to promote WARM (Work Adjustment in Recycling and Waste Management). The program focuses to develop and improve safety, health and working conditions of waste collectors in Fiji. WARM is designed for promoting active cooperation between waste collectors, community, and other stakeholders to make waste collection safer and more efficient through participatory and action-oriented approach.

I am indeed blessed to be trained as Trainer to promote the WARM program in Fiji and the region.

The concept is to instill voluntary changes with minimum costs in stakeholders towards OSH.

I wish all of you present here today a fruitful OHS Day and hope you will execute your roles and responsibilities with due diligence to help us prevent occupational diseases and ensure better and higher productivity.

We need a collaborative approach and I’m very optimistic that together we can make our workplace a healthier and safer one.

FTUC reaffirmed its commitment as tripartite partner on OSH issues.

May God Shower his blessing to all the workers in Fiji and in the world at large.

Vinaka Vakalevu!

Thank You and Dhanyabaad

Rouhit Karan Singh

Assistant National Secretary

Fiji Trades Union Congress

On World OHS Day – ITUC Pledge

ITUC Pledge on Toxics: “If you expose us, we’ll expose you”

ILO Report on Disability

ILO report

OUT of the 650 million people with disabilities worldwide, 470 million are of working age, says the International Labour Organization.

And while this number has the potential to contribute towards the national GDP of countries globally, many persons with disabilities were still not given equal opportunities to earn a living.

According to the ILO, people with disabilities were more likely to be unemployed or earn less when compared with non-disabled people.

“Despite major gains in recent years, people with disabilities still face discrimination and other barriers to full participation in social, economic, political and cultural life,” the statement said.

In order to encourage more persons living with disabilities to join the business sector, ILO has joined hands with the Pacific Disability Forum to host a training workshop in Nadi this week.

Four regional countries — Fiji, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu — are participating in the workshop.

“Skills development is central in enabling people with disabilities to take part in the labour force. Those who have had the opportunity to acquire marketable skills are more likely to obtain decent and productive work.”

The training workshop is facilitated by Papua New Guinea-based Peter Piawu, an ILO certified business trainer.

 

FSGWU Annual Delegates Conference 2015

FSGWU Annual Delegates Conference 2015

The FSGWU held its Annual Delegates Conference on Saturday 25th April in Lautoka. Delegates from the Union’s Branches attended the Conference. The meeting adopted the Annual Reports and elected its officers. The Elections were conducted by the Fiji Elections Office in accordance with the Union Constitution. Nominations were called for through advertisements in the newspapers. All National and Branch Officials of the Union were elected unopposed. A clear sign of solidarity and mandate to those elected to press on without distractions. Those elected are:

National President: Nasoni Naqelekalou

National Vice President: Mariappa

General Secretary: Felix Anthony

National Treasurer: Peni Vakau

The National President, Vice President and National Treasurer are elected for a term of 2 years while the General Secretary is elected for a term of 4 years.

The Conference has also taken a decision to amalgamate with the Construction, Energy and Timber Workers Union. Secret ballots would be conducted to seek the mandate of all members. The Union will also be seeking a name change as it has already amalgamated with the Municipal Workers Union, The Tropik Wood Employees and Allied Workers Union and is in the process of amalgamating with the PAFCO Employees Union. This is in conformity with the policy of FTUC on amalgamations of smaller Unions.

The Conference also discussed the plight of seasonal workers in the Sugar Industry. With the reduction in crop size from a high of about 4 million tons to 1.8 million tons, workers are now facing longer slack season without any alternative work or source of income. Delegates raised concern that no assistance was forthcoming from Government or Fiji Sugar Corporation. The Delegates have called on the Union to pursue this matter with Government and the European Union which has pledged substantial support to the Industry excluding the workers. Delegates also raised serious concerns about the Industry and their job security.

The Delegates also discussed the latest agreement signed in Geneva between FTUC, FCEF and Government, and hoped to see an improvement to industrial relations in Fiji. The delegates called upon FTUC to ensure that the ENI Decree is revoked and workers in Tropik Wood and Municipal Councils have their rights restored as soon as possible.

Concern was also raised at the delay in the Ministry of Labour registering the amalgamation of the two Unions. It is now about 2 years since the members of both the Unions had voted to amalgamate and lodged registration application with the Ministry.

Tripartite Celebrations begin to mark World OHS Day

Tripartite representatives at the OSH Workshop In Lautoka, on your far right is Mr Rouhit Singh of FTUC.

EVENT ADDRESS  BY Mr Rouhit Karan Singh,
REPRESENTATIVE OF  FIJI TRADES UNION CONGRESS
WORLD DAY FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK
21st APRIL, 2015,LAUTOKA HOTEL, LAUTOKA

“Join in Building the Culture of Prevention on OSH”.

1. Representatives from International Labor Organization
2. Representatives from Ministry for Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment
3. Representative from Fiji Employers Federation
4. Invited Guests,
5. Trade Union Delegates
6. Ladies & Gentlemen
7. Brothers and Sisters

This morning I stand tall in the capacity of Assistant National Secretary of Fiji Trades Union Congress and Chief Guest to open the program in Lautoka.

I am indeed proud to state that I’m not here to represent the 30,000 or so odd trade union members but all  workers throughout Fiji.

More so, it gives me great pleasure to extend a very warm welcome from my colleagues at the Fiji Trades Union Congress.

April 28 marks a historical and a day of significance for all the workers throughout the world and FTUC is proud to be associated with this year’s celebrations to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Being one of the tripartite partners bestowed with the responsibility of ensuring and promoting safe work practices and standards, it has become very important to work towards achieving a safe work environment.

This year’s theme is “Join in Building the Culture of Prevention on OSH”.

The culture of prevention cannot be dealt in isolation and needs genuine commitment of the Government, Employers and the Workers.

Every year hundreds of workplace accidents occur.

ILO estimates that occupational accidents and work-related diseases cause over 6,300 deaths every day or 2.3 million fatalities a year. Of this huge loss, about 350,000 deaths are caused by occupational accidents and close to 2 million by work-related diseases.

Non-fatal accidents affect an even larger number – over 313 million workers are injured every year – while non-fatal work-related diseases are estimated to affect 160 million each year.

We cannot lay back and wonder about the figures. The fact remains that it’s time for us to take urgent steps collectively to reinforce our action and redouble our efforts to create safe and healthy workplaces for all workers.

Communication is a very vital tool in OSH and we need to identify and discuss new trends and prospects for promoting activities for safety and health at work, for ensuring safe working conditions and protect workers’ health.

It has been rightly stated that a successful OSH management system requires the commitment of top management to a culture of prevention, including through the allocation of sufficient resources. This includes awareness, training, maintenance, personal protective equipment’s etc.
But just as important is the participation of workers, who play a crucial role in recognizing and identifying hazards; contributing to well-informed and context specific risk assessment; planning effective preventive measures; and implementing prevention and mitigation measures.

The goal of OSH strategy is to prevent workplace death, injury and disease. But when it happens, workers and their dependents must be supported and I urge that all Employers to have adequate coverage for Workmen’s Compensation and adequate insurance.

The death and injury rate at workplace is obviously unacceptable to the union movement and one of the most important tasks for unions therefore is not only to protect their members from the hazards at their work but in broader perspective – the overall impact it may create to the family, society and the country as a whole.

And in what better way than through prevention.

Work related diseases can be prevented or decreased if all parties are committed in ensuring safety through OHS compliance.

To comply, FTUC urges all the workplace in Fiji to implement safer OHS standards, implement and support OHS Committees as per Workplace Regulations and Health and Safety at Work Act 1996 respectively and provide necessary facilities and amenities.

In addition, we urge that the Ministry of Employment and Industrial Relations to come hard on workplaces so that they fulfill the requirements in obtaining compliance certificates and as such our workers are provided with safer and better workplace with all the facilities and amenities. The governing legislations must be fully implemented and violators should be held accountable.

There are many workers around the country who have suffered or died from occupational hazards whilst in employment. Many workers have lost their jobs by reporting themselves.

Many cases have so far gone unreported which is of great concern to the Trade Union Congress.
As a deterrent, those employers failing to report on such an important issue should be immediately  prosecuted. We believe that to ensure that workers are safe and provided with a disease-free environment while they are at work, the co-operation and understanding of all tripartite partners is equally important and more so very vital.

Today, whilst we discuss this important subject, I hope that progress is made on a joint approach towards an appropriate and applicable OHS management system as a model for Fiji workplace situations. Being a NOHSAB member gives me satisfaction to contribute for the betterment of the workers in Fiji.

The Congress calls on governments, employers and all organizations to collaborate in the development and implementation of national policies and effective strategies aimed at preventing occupational and work-related diseases.

We don’t want to lose our fellow workers due to others negligence.
We pay heavily for the loss of productivity and economic waste as employees fall sick. Much has been written about the cost of industrial expenses but few attempts have been made to assess it accurately.

We only capture incidence of those who are in working life. What happens to those who retire and die of diseases which may have been contracted due to his occupation.

Finally, I wish to emphasize again that proper implementation and monitoring of workplace standards is crucial.

Effective control is the best way to ensure effective implementation!

This is the only way forward in Building on the culture of Prevention on OSH.

Just to draw your attention, Lautoka City Council has partnered with ILO and JICA to promote WARM (Work Adjustment in Recycling and Waste Management). The program focuses to develop and improve safety, health and working conditions of waste collectors in Fiji. WARM is designed for promoting aactive cooperation between waste collectors, community, and other stakeholders to make waste collection safer and more efficient through participatory and action-oriented approach.

I am indeed blessed to be trained as a Trainer to promote the WARM program in Fiji and the region.

I wish all of you present here today a fruitful OHS Day and hope you will execute your roles and responsibilities with due diligence to help us prevent occupational diseases and ensure better and higher productivity.

We need a collaborative approach and I’m very optimistic that together we can make our workplace a healthier and safer one.

May God Shower his blessing to all the workers in Fiji and in the world at large.

Vinaka Vakalevu!
Thank You and Dhanyabaad
Rouhit Karan Singh
Assistant National SecretaryFiji Trades Union Congress

New ILO Manual on Employment policies for Trade Unions

Employment Policy

New ILO Manual on Employment policies for Trade Unions

New ILO Publication presents a series of employment policies for Trade Unions. It summarizes years of experience in the field of employment at national level.

News | 20 April 2015
Unions’ involvement on macroeconomic policies and the reduction of informal employment should be given to implement national employment policies, says a new ILO Publication.“A Workers’ Guide to National Employment Policies” was released by the ILO Bureau for Workers ‘Activities (ACTRAV) and the ILO Employment policy Department at the seminar for trade unionists on Employment policies in Astana (Kazakhstan), being held form 8-12 April 2015.The manual is the result of lessons learned by Trade Unions on the National Employment Policies (NEP).According to Sergeyus Glovackas, Senior Specialist in Workers’ Activities, “this is the first event of such a scope in the region of the New Independent States (NIS) and the first time, when such a Guide has been published in the Russian language. This Guide is very timely, as the economic crisis has started in the Russian Federation; and the Guide should serve as a useful tool in elaboration of the anti-crisis strategy in the Region”.The event was jointly organized by the Bureau of the Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV), the ILO Employment Policies Department and the Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe with the support and active participation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The seminar was attended by 26 representatives of trade unions from 11 countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.Participants suggested that the involvement of trade unions in the formation of a NEP should be reflected in the Decent Work Country Programmes and National agreements.

Four regions of will be hosts to such training events in order to adapt and test this Manual.

Strong communications can boost activities in Asia-Pacific, unions say

Strong communications can boost activities in Asia-Pacific, unions say

Press release | Bangkok | 20 April 2015
New communication strategy and skills are needed to mobilise and organize workers in the Asia and Pacific region, according to the conclusions of a regional workshop on communication, organized by the ILO’ Bureau for Workers Activities (ACTRAV) under the ACTRAV-ACFTU South-South cooperation .

Participants shared best practices on how to use new technology and communication in their countries and discussed the challenges they face to mobilise and organise workers.

Representatives from 30 unions addressed several topics related to communication such as: online campaigns, advocacy, writing skills, making videos and designing communication strategies.

Participants welcomed the existence of training activities for trade unions to improve and implement communication skills in the region. In addition, they also called for more resources to be made available. They also supported the creation of more publications on communication to strengthen unions’ activities to mobilise and organize workers in the Asia and Pacific region.

The regional workshop was held in Bangkok (Thailand) from 15 to 17 April 2015. It brought together union leaders, ILO and ACFTU representatives.

President of Workers’ Group speaks on Right to Strike at ILO 323rd Session of the ILO GB

323rd session of the ILO Governing Body

Luc Cortebeeck, President of the Workers’ Group: “The right to strike has been recognized and the ILO supervisory mechanism is back in operation”
The 323rd session of the ILO Governing Body has just finished in Geneva. In this interview, President of the Workers’ Group Luc Cortebeeck discusses the outcomes achieved at this session, in particular on the issue of the right to strike. He also talks about the solutions the trade unions have in mind for the protection of vulnerable workers and the expectations of the Workers’ Group for the forthcoming discussions on transitioning from the informal to the formal economy due to take place at the International Labour Conference in June 2015.
ACTRAV INFO: The 323rd session of the ILO Governing Body has just finished. What’s your interpretation of the results of this session at the level of the Workers’ Group?

Luc Cortebeeck: I think that this 323rd session of the Governing Body was a success compared to where we were in November 2014, for several reasons. Firstly, we made a lot of progress on the issue of the right to strike in particular and the ILO supervisory mechanism is operational once again. This is the result of multiple negotiations with employers and governments, which eventually fostered an atmosphere favourable to the operation of the ILO mechanism for supervision of the application of international labour standards. Today, tripartism is stronger.

Then another success was the signature of a tripartite agreement between the government, the employers, and workers of Fiji. The purpose of the agreement is to establish the application of freedom of association and other international labour standards in the laws and practices of that country, which for years has posed a real problem for the workers and their trade unions. This unanticipated agreement allowed the government to avoid application of the most severe article of the ILO Constitution, article 26 , which provides for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into violations of labour standards. We congratulate our worker colleague Félix Anthony, leader of the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC), and hope that this tripartite agreement, which was signed under the supervision of the ILO Director-General, will be put into practice. We will have an initial evaluation of the application of this agreement on Fiji in June, and in November 2015 at the Governing Body.

So far as the Programme and Budget is concerned, the Office found a balance that takes account of the goals set by the workers for the next two years. Although the Programme and Budget was attacked by the employers, agreement was eventually reached, with unanimity. This constitutes a success for the Office and for the Director-General.

We also welcome the conclusions of the Meeting of Experts on Non-Standard Forms of Employment; this was also a success for ILO.

However, there were some difficult issues tackled at this session. For example, the case of Qatar, where 1.7 million migrant workers are being subjected to conditions of slavery, with the complicity of recruitment agencies. These migrant workers have neither contracts nor salaries. They work and live in inhumane conditions far from their families. The Employers’ Group and the Workers’ Group proposed sending a high-level tripartite mission, but this was rejected by the government. To date, for purportedly “economic” reasons, the Government of Qatar is supported by several governments, including but not limited to the governments of the countries that are sending workers there in the hope of earning money. This situation is unacceptable. At the level of the Workers’ Group, we would like to send a mission that, taking the reality on the ground as a starting point, could propose measures for the government to take and technical assistance to come to the aid of migrant workers in Qatar. The government could also prove its commitment by ratifying the protocol of 2014 to the ILO Convention on Forced Labour, No. 29 , on the elimination of contemporary forms of slavery.

ACTRAV INFO: The question of the right to strike was on the agenda again at this session. How to do you evaluate the results of the discussions on the right to strike?

We have discussed this many times before without finding a solution. Remember that last November, faced with an impasse on the right to strike, the Workers’ Group proposed that the issue be referred to the International Court of Justice. Almost half of the Governing Body was in favour of this option but the impasse persisted…that’s why we made contact with governments and employers to try to find a solution. For us workers, the right to strike is a part of ILO Convention No. 87 . Remember that for years employers had always respected the advice pertaining to the jurisprudence of the Committee of Experts; since 2012, they have no longer accepted it and we have made several attempts at negotiation. Finally, shortly before the preparatory meeting on the right to strike organized by the Office in February 2015, we reached an agreement with the employers, who recognized the right to strike on a case by case basis. The governments, for their part, recognized the right to strike as being a part of freedom of association and necessarily related to collective bargaining. And indeed the Freedom of Association Committee did once again accept some unanimous conclusions on several right to strike cases. Naturally, with this development, we are also relying on the Standards Committee examining a list of cases at the next session of the International Labour Conference. I believe that there is a shared political will by governments, employers and workers to extricate ILO from this impasse on the right to strike.

These are the new perspectives that are emerging, which do bring risks, certainly, but I think that for the future of ILO, this is a chance – an opportunity – that we have before us here.

ACTRAV INFO: The protection of vulnerable workers was mentioned at this session – at the level of the Workers’ Group, what solutions do you have in mind for the protection of vulnerable workers?

There is growing inequality throughout the world today, and this is a phenomenon that can be seen in both developed and developing countries.

In order to ensure the protection of vulnerable workers, they must be represented by trade unions with the right to negotiate. These workers must have a work contract and a decent salary, without any discrimination. A minimum wage high enough to live on and social security are some solutions that would allow vulnerable workers to live with decency. We also hope that ILO’s action to protect vulnerable workers will form part of a synergy of actions by the United Nations under the post-2015 development agenda.

ACTRAV INFO: Transitioning from the informal to the formal economy will be on the agenda at the next session of the International Labour Conference in June 2015. What are your expectations for these tripartite discussions?

This will be the second time that the International Labour Conference has tackled this issue. We remain optimistic. The Workers’ Group has already made contact with the employers in order to negotiate progress on this issue. In some countries today, more than 80% of workers are in the informal economy. I think that for many governments, the formalization of the informal economy is something they would welcome.

And for employers, informal work signifies unfair competition because, as it is not organized by genuine employers, they do not negotiate in the usual way with workers of the informal economy.

At the ILO level, it’s possible that there might be a recommendation to try to regulate the transition from the informal to the formal economy. We would really like to see that recommendation come to pass, because it is an important first step towards supporting the workers of the informal economy.