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.