Korean Court affirms Right To Unionism for Migrant Workers

In a landmark decision, Korea’s Supreme Court has now ruled that undocumented migrant workers have the right to unionise, eight years after the migrant workers’ trade union MTU first launched its legal action.

The government refused to register the MTU and engaged in a targeted crackdown by arresting and deporting its leaders. The Court’s ruling that these workers are included in the scope of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Adjustment Act is a major victory against the staunchly anti-union government.

Udaya Rai, President of the MTU said, “We, the migrant workers, have the right to form a union. It took no less than eight years for the litigation because the government didn’t want to recognise our fundamental right. Today we found that we can achieve what we want when we are united and fight together. On this occasion, we will organise more migrant workers regardless of their status into our union and continue our struggle for labour rights for all migrant workers! I appreciate all the support and solidarity for the MTU”.

The Korean government’s refusal to recognise the right of migrant workers to organise unions was criticised by the International Labour Organization’s Committee on Freedom of Association numerous times, most recently in March 2015.

In reaching its decision, the Court reviewed relevant legislation from a wide range of other countries, and found that the right to organise for undocumented migrants is the international standard. The Court also heard that the number of undocumented migrants in the country, largely those whose residence permits had expired, was around 210,000 in 2014.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “This judgement clears up one of many breaches of international labour standards in Korean law and practice. It is an important victory for some of the most vulnerable and exploited workers who will now be allowed to organise to protect their rights at work and improve their lives.”

Fiji Sun champions workers’ rights to lead their own call for Organising

The Fiji Sun through its column today by Nemani Delaibatiki, Managing Editor  impressed upon the Unions to organize the unorganized sectors.  Read article  – F S Nemani

The National Secretary Felix Anthony writes to Fiji Sun ( as below)  to engage with Unions to form a Union at their workplace. The FTUC appreciates the stance taken by Nemani and looks forward to Fiji Sun making it happen for the Unions and workers of the country beginning with Fiji Sun.

The Managing Director
Fiji Sun Ltd.
Private Mail Bag
Suva .

Dear Sir,

I take this opportunity to thank your Managing Editor, Mr. Nemani Delaibatiki for calling on Trade Unions to organize the private sector. This has been a difficult area to organize, more so with the Draconian Decrees that have existed for about 7 years now and a Ministry of Labour which is reluctant to enforce labour laws for decades. This is compounded by the fact that we have an Arbitration Tribunal which can take anywhere from 2 years to 6 years to deal with disputes. Often when workers join Unions in the private sector, they are victimized or even terminated. One can hardly make ends meet with the current minimum wage let alone not having a job.

Mr. Delaibatiki’s call is a welcome invitation to the Trade Union Movement to organize. Being a man of principle, who appears to champion workers’ rights, we seek to organize workers at Fiji Sun. In this regard, we seek a meeting with you and with your workers at a suitable time when we can discuss the possibility of your employees joining the Union. This has really got to be the first time an employer in the open column of its own newspaper has demanded that workers need to be organized. For this reason, we will publish this letter on our website to promote Fiji Sun. The only other contradiction in his article is that he appears to argue that unions are no longer relevant but urges FTUC to continue dialogue with government to avoid a Commission of Inquiry into violations of workers’ rights. These talks are about all workers and not the 30% as Mr Delaibatiki claims earlier in his article.

I am aware that Fiji Sun is a Subsidiary Company of C. J. Patel Group. I take it that they too agree with Mr. Delaibatiki’s call. I shall write to the Chief Executive Officer requesting a similar meeting.

I thank you most sincerely and look forward to your response and a proposed time to meet. Please feel free to report this correspondence in your newspaper with a possible heading “We Put Our Money Where Our Mouth Is” or “We Practice What We Preach”.
Yours sincerely,

Felix Anthony
National Secretary

FTUC reiterates: Fiji must comply with ILO Conventions

The FTUC made a comprehensive submission on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill No 10 to Parliament.

Attached is the  submission   for your  information. Final FTUC Submission to Sub Committee (Full Copy).  It lists in detail the omissions and justification(s) of amendments set out against the Committee Of Experts on the Application of Standards Report and the  ILO Core Conventions.

The FTUC is grateful to the assistance through our Australian unions to make available the Senior Legal Officer , SPSF, Mr Mark Perica, the public sector union group,   of Australian Council of Trade Unions.


Respect ILO Conventions or face Commission of Inquiry: Anthony

Commission of Inquiry could have serious implications: FTUC

06:48 Yesterday

Felix Anthony – Commission of Inquiry would have serious effectsTaken from/By: FBC News
Report by: Elenoa Turagaiviu

A Commission of Inquiry into Fiji by the International Labour Organisation could have serious implications for the country.

The Fiji Trades Union Congress is calling on all parties to honour the tripartite agreement signed in Geneva; which seeks to address decrees which affect workers’ rights in the country.

General Secretary Felix Anthony says government has the power to stop this from happening by simply complying with the terms of the tripartite agreement signed in Geneva in March

Anthony says the Union is willing to corporate with government in this regard.

“I think it has serious implications on Fiji. One, the reputation of Fiji I think Fiji is not held at very high esteem at the ILO at the moment for obvious reasons. This is going to damage the image of Fiji. Of course there will be serious implications on trade and the economy itself.”

A Commission of Inquiry is 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 International Labour Organisation will decide in November whether to call a Commission of Inquiry into workers affairs in the country.

– See more at: http://www.fbc.com.fj/fiji/30529/commission-of-inquiry-could-have-serious-implications-ftuc#sthash.JAb64X2f.dpuf

ILO calls for revision

Nasik Swami – Fiji Times
Thursday, June 18, 2015

THE International Labour Organization has called on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights to relook at the scope of Fiji’s essential services and consider what is compatible with ILO’s Freedom of Association.

ILO’s senior International Labour Standards and Labour Law specialist Alain Pelce told the committee that the Employment Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015 should reconsider the essential services list and only include those that were vital to the country.

Mr Pelce said Fiji Airways was not necessarily an essential service, but was included as one in the Bill.

When questioned by committee chairman Ashneel Sudhakar whether banks were essential services, he said while the situation of other countries may differ, banks were not an essential service.

He told the committee the giving the minister the power to declare a workers strike illegal was wrong.

“This decision should lie with an independent body and not the minister.

“Have a second look at what is the scope and what is compatible with ILO Freedom of Association.”

Mr Pelce also told the committee to consider removing the penalty of imprisonment when workers go on a strike.

Mr Sudhakar said the ILO had taken the committee to the right path as Fiji tried to meet international standards and best practices.

Source Fiji Times

Jon Apted says it’s better to do away with the bargaining unit

Jon Apted says it’s better to do away with the bargaining unit
By Watisoni Butabua
Thursday 18/06/2015
Fiji Village. Com

Suva lawyer Jon Apted

Suva lawyer Jon Apted has said it would be better to do away with the in-house bargaining unit in the Employment Relations Amendment Bill as it is not a trade union.
While making his submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights, Apted said there is a misconception by the drafter of the bill.
Apted said the bargaining unit can be formed by the workers within the designated corporation.
He said they can vote for a representative and the representatives get registered under the Essential National Industries Decree.
He believes this is incorrect.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights, Ashneel Sudhakar questioned Apted on what would be the problem in having the bargaining unit that co-exists with the trade union.
Apted said it is pointless having a bargaining unit because it is a fake trade union.
He also said the bargaining unit threshold under the Essential National Industries Decree is 25%.

ILO reminds Fiji of its obligations

ILO reminds Fiji of its obligations –


The International Labour Organisation has reminded the Fiji government that a commission of inquiry into the country’s labour practices could be launched if an agreement it signed earlier this year is not fulfilled.

Felix Anthony  Photo: RNZ

In March, the ILO put off until November any decision on whether an inquiry should be established after the government, the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation and the Fiji Trades Union Congress signed a tripartite agreement to discuss amendments to labour laws.

But talks between the parties have disintegrated, with the government and the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation submitting one progress report to the ILO, and the Fiji Trades Union Congress submitting one on its own.

The FTUC’s general secretary, Felix Anthony, says it had serious concerns with the government’s report.

“There were parts of the report that were factually incorrect, one, and number two, there were admissions in the report. Quite apart from that, there were no real negotiations between the parties, and the fact the government attempted actually to dictate to the parties as to what we should be doing and what report we ought to be signing.”

Mr Anthony says the FTUC is waiting to hear from the government as to when it is prepared to meet and continue talks.

“If they’re prepared to meet we expect that there will be genuine discussions in good faith, and that we have a common goal, that is to honour the agreement we have signed in March this year and ensure we restore the rights of workers in this country.”

Meanwhile, The Fiji Times reports the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum as saying an ILO inquiry could be dangerous as it may pressure other countries to stop trading with Fiji.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum says he believes with the amendments that have already taken place, Fiji is now compliant with the core ILO conventions, and there is no point in having a commission of inquiry “for the sake of it”.


Only Government can stop the Commission of Enquiry: Anthony

As the International Labour Organization waits for a progress report on the Employment Relations laws in the country, Fiji Trades Union Congress General Secretary Felix Anthony has said the fact is that the government has to amend the proposed law to conform to the ILO conventions.
Anthony said a Commission of Inquiry into Fiji may be ordered in November if the government does not comply with the requirements and does not present a joint report from the government, the unions and the employers to the ILO.
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has said that a Commission of Inquiry could have a disastrous effect on Fiji.
However, Felix Anthony said the government should just comply with the ILO requirements.
While speaking at the ACP EU meeting in Suva, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said by bringing in the Employment Relations Bill, Fiji has complied with the core ILO conventions.

Sayed-Khaiyum has also raised the issue that some of the unionists in the country continue to be involved in politics.
He said the fact is that the Bill allows workers in listed essential industries to join any trade union.

Felix Anthony said he sees nothing wrong with unionists having a political view.

Anthony said the workers’ representatives disagree with the denial of the right to strike for all essential services and industries as stipulated in the Essential National Industries Decree and incorporated in the Bill, the inclusion of bargaining units from the Essential National Industries Decree into the Bill, and the inclusion of essential services and industries under the decree into the draft Bill.

Commission of Enquiry still stands: Anthony

Government Warned Again

Update from Felix Anthony, Workers Representative @ the ILC 2015 in Geneva:

The Governing Body met today (Saturday 13 June 2015) and once again considered the Fiji Case as decided in March Governing Body of ILO. Unfortunately the Parties were not able to submit a joint report as Government decided to dictate terms and submit its own report signed by the Employers. FTUC then submitted its own report.
As we now see in the decision of the Governing Body which calls on Government to change labour laws to ensure full compliance with ILO conventions and to make a joint report before November GB meeting. Failing which, the GB will consider a Commission of Inquiry into Fiji. It is unfortunate that Fiji needs to be told to do the right thing at the ILO at every GB Meeting.
Governments of the EU and governments of Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Norway, The Republic of Moldova and Armenia all supported the decision and urged the Government to comply with the Agreement signed and if a joint implementation is not submitted then a Commission of Inquiry should be considered at the next meeting in November. Australia also urged Government to honor the Agreement and submit a joint report. United States stated its concern at the slow pace discussions and reiterated concerns that FTUC raised and urged Government to act on the concerns. It stated its support for the decision.
The FTUC remains prepared to continue negotiations on the labour laws and ensure full restoration of workers rights and dignity at work. The Agreement calls for laws to be in Parliament before the end of August and implementation before end of October 2015. Onus is on Government to honor the Agreement and avoid a Commission of Inquiry.

Decision adopted unanimously.

Recalling the Tripartite Agreement signed by the Government of Fiji, the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) and the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF) on 25 March 2015 and the Governing Body’s request to the Government and the social Partners to submit a joint implementation report to the Governing Body at its 324th Session (June 2015) in accordance with that Agreement,

Noting the joint communication of 2 June 2015 submitted by the Government of the Republic of Fiji and the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF) and the separate communication of 2 June 2015 from the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC),

Regretting the failure to submit a joint implementation report as called for in the decision adopted by the Governing Body at its 323rd Session (March 2015),

The Governing Body:

(a) urge the Government of Fiji through the Employment Relations Advisory Body to review its labour laws to ensure compliance with ILO core Conventions;

(b) reiterate the request for the submission of a joint implementation report, in accordance with the Tripartite Agreement signed in March 2015, before the 325th Session of the Governing Body (November 2015); and

(c) consider at its 325th Session the establishment of a commission of inquiry.

Cook Islands have been voted as the 186th member of the ILO with an overwhelming majority. This is the first Country since 1982 to be admitted as member of ILO which is not a member of the UN. I am privileged to have served on the Selection Committee of the International Labour Conference that examined the application and recommended acceptance of the Cook Islands as a Member of ILO. This was a historic occasion after 33years.
Congratulations to the People of Cook Islands.

 Felix Anthony

National Secretary responds to unbalanced and incorrect reporting by journalist

The FTUC released a statement  as soon as it was faced with the fact that Govt had prepared a report that was not tripartite and did not reflect the decisions reached in the ERAB meetings. The Fiji Sun, as usual and well-known for its behavior , decided to analyse the Statement with no basis and backing, and published it front page, purporting to be aware of all the facts and progress made at ERAB.  As a right of reply, we publish below the response from Felix Anthony.

Well the Fiji Sun is at it again. Journalism (if we can call that) at its worst. Nemani Delaibatiki without even publishing my statement decided that he would comment on it in the front page and page 3 attempting to tell the public that his views are “fact” and mine “fiction”. Where did media ethics go, I wonder? But I am not surprised.
Nemani Delaibatiki has been known to tow the Government line faithfully. There is absolutely no independence in his reporting or analysis of this issue.

He claims that there were no omissions in regards to the disagreements between the FTUC and Government in the report drafted by Government. He was not present in any meetings nor is he aware of what FTUC considers as an omission. He does not quote anyone who was present at any meeting to substantiate his claim. The omissions were as follows and they were included in the amended draft that was done in Geneva in presence of Mr. Hazelman and the Head of Mission in Geneva and her staff.

The omissions related to the inclusion of “Essential Services and Industries” under the ENI Decree into the draft Bill. The other omission was the exclusion of prisons officers from the ERP despite the ILO repeatedly calling on Fiji Government to amend the laws. The third omission was the issue of reinstatement of the registration of Trade Unions that were de-registered by the imposition of the ENI Decree.

In addition to this, amendments were made on the paragraphs that listed the disagreements. They included the issue of right to strike.
As an example, the Government’s draft stated that the FTUC disagreed with the Right to Strike. This was absolutely nonsense. The FTUC disagreed with the denial of the Right to Strike. So Nemani, there you are with facts.

The second “evidence” that Nemani relied upon to pronounce judgment and vindicate Government was the issue of “bargaining units” which was imported from the ENI Decree. He claims that I am worried that bargaining units would replace trade unions and that 70% of workers would be able to bargain who do not belong to Unions. The reality is that the ENI Decree has been around for some 5 years now. There are only a few Bargaining units registered and they all come from companies that previously had unions that were de-registered by the ENI Decree. No other workplace had registered a bargaining unit. The fact is that any 7 workers can form a union. That was already in the ERP. The fact is that any worker can take up a personal grievance, irrespective whether they belong to a union or not, to the Ministry of Labour and to arbitration. This is already in the ERP and you know who insisted on these rights for workers. It was the FTUC. Our interest is workers and not personal, as Nemani claims. The question is, has Nemani allowed a Bargaining Unit for workers in Fiji Sun and is prepared to negotiate and give those workers all the rights as required under the ILO Core Conventions? …Difficult question to answer, when we all know that workers in Fiji Sun, including journalists are exploited and underpaid and have no collective voice or protection.

The third “evidence” that Nemani relied upon is on the issue of Right to Strike. He claims that nothing has changed, not even full stops and comas in the ERP. The ERP provisions apply. He even tries to spice it up by giving an example of nurses going on strike in the middle of an operation. What incredible crap! Nemani obviously has not read the Bill before Parliament. The Bill requires any Essential Services or industries to go to  Compulsory Arbitration and gives no Right to Strike once the parties are before the Arbitration Court. Nemani has been fooled like many others will. One piece of legislation gives the right while the other promptly takes it away. Nemani must educate himself on these issues before claiming to know it all.
On the issue of “Right to Strike” it must be understood that this is the only tool workers have to fight for, what they believe is their right. Without the Right to Strike, collective bargaining has little meaning, which is why the Committee of Experts at the ILO has for the last 60 years stated that the Right to Strike is Essential and part of Convention 87. Nemani believes that this Right is the old fashion way of resolving disputes. He has much to learn in the field of Industrial Relations. It may well be his old fashion thinking that is the problem when it comes to Trade Unions. I would safely concur with the Experts in ILO.

Finally, Nemani questions me on what the fuss is about when Collective Bargaining and Freedom of Association is restored. The fuss is about everything I have already stated and about losing the benefits, Rights at Work and dignity that workers have struggled and sacrificed for over the last 8 decades in Fiji. We want the sacrifices and struggles of our forefathers to be recognized and restored and not expect workers to start from scratch again.
Sad that we have people who call themselves journalists and do such disservice to our people and country. The public deserves to know just the Truth.
Felix Anthony
National Secretary