FTUC Against new anti-labour Act

FTUC against Act

Felix Chaudhary
Tuesday, July 14, 2015

THE inclusion of more sectors on the list of essential industries, bargaining units acting like trade unions, and workers in essential industries being denied the right to strike all contravene International Labour Organization core conventions, says Fiji Trades Union Congress national secretary Felix Anthony.

“We put Government on notice that FTUC will vigorously pursue these matters at the ILO,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.

“The responsibility of the outcome must be borne by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and his Government.”

Mr Anthony said the FTUC strongly refuted the A-G’s claim that the Employment Relations (Amendment) Act was compliant with core ILO conventions.

“The Act has serious shortcomings and is also a demonstration of Government not adhering to the Tripartite Agreement that it signed with the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation and FTUC and witnessed by the director general of ILO,” Mr Anthony said.

The Tripartite Agreement, he said, called for the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 to be the primary legislation governing labour management relations in the country.

“This Government amended the ERP and included in it parts of the Essential National Industries Decree that it claimed is repealed. This is a contradiction it conveniently ignored.

“The Government also undertook to ensure that all its labour laws would comply with ILO core conventions.

“The essential industries remain the same as in the ENI Decree which was subject of ILO committee of experts report urging Government to ensure that ‘essential industries’ are those that threaten the life, safety and health of people.

“If anything at all, the amendments in the Act expand the coverage of the definition of ‘essential services’ to all Government-owned enterprises which now includes PAFCO and FSC which were previously excluded.”

Mr Anthony said the Amendment Act allowed bargaining units to continue to exist and behave like unions.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had said the two issues raised by the ILO — freedom of association and collective bargaining had been addressed in the Employment Relations (Amendment) Bill.

“The first one has been addressed by way of saying that anybody that may be under an essential industry in any particular category has the right to join a union or they can have a collective bargaining unit,” he said.

“We have complied with the ILO convention in terms of freedom of association.”

Source: Fiji Times 14th July 2015

ERP Amendment Act remains non-compliant

Press Release July 10th 2015

Employment Relations Promulgation (amendment) Act Remains Non-Compliant

The FTUC refutes the claim by the Attorney General that the Employment Relations Promulgation  (amendment) Act is compliant with the Core ILO Conventions. This is far from the truth. The Act has serious shortcomings and is also a demonstration of Government not adhering to the Tripartite Agreement that it signed with the FCEF and FTUC and witnessed by the Director General of ILO. It is clear from the debate in Parliament that the Government side totally ignored its obligation to adhere to the Agreement and also demonstrated its ignorance of the ILO Core Conventions.

The Tripartite Agreement called for the ERP 2007 to be the primary legislation governing “labour management relations in Fiji”. This Government amended the ERP and included in it parts the ENI Decree that it claimed is repealed. This is a contradiction it conveniently ignored. The Government also undertook to ensure that all its labour laws would comply with ILO Core Conventions. The essential Industries remain the same as in the ENI Decree which was subject of ILO Committee of Experts report urging Government to ensure that “essential Industries” are those that threaten the life, safety and health of people. This issue is crystal clear in the reports and yet we have the AG attempting to mislead people into believing that the Amendment Act now complies with ILO Standards. How does the Pine Industry or the Banking Industry or Fiji Airways threaten anyone’s safety, health or life? If anything at all, the amendments in the Act expand the coverage of the definition of “essential services” to all Government owned enterprises which now includes PAFCO and FSC which were previously excluded. This is just one example.

The other is the Bargaining Units which have been imported from the ENI Decree. This Amendment Act allows the Bargaining Units to continue to exist and behave like Unions. Clearly an attempt again to undermine legitimate trade Unions. It also restricts members of the bargaining unit to form a Union until and unless majority of members of the bargaining unit vote to form a union. This is a serious restriction on Freedom of Association which the AG claims is fully restored. Undermining Trade Unions is definitely not a show of good faith. In addition, Prison Officers are still being excluded and deprived of their Right to Associate. This has been made clear in the Committee of Experts report on C87 . The Sub Committee also does not consider Prison Officers as disciplined forces. Only the AG does.

The third example is the Right to Strike. All workers classified as “essential workers” do not have the right to strike. Provisions of the Amendment Act deny in practice these workers the right to strike as there are provisions for compulsory mediation and arbitration. Without the right to strike, the ability for Unions to effectively collective bargain is restricted quite apart from the fact that the right to strike is a fundamental right under ILO Convention 87. The right to strike does not mean that Unions want to go on strike as the AG would like all to believe. It is a right that can be exercised if and when necessary. Strikes only become a necessity when employers behave unreasonably or unfairly and is the last resort. The FTUC also agrees that strikes in such situations must adhere to a procedure which Unions and Employers must observe. It is not a right to strike without notice as the AG claimed.

All these were repeatedly submitted to the Parliamentary Sub Committee by various stakeholders and the ERAB Sub Committee but were ignored by Government. It is now clear the Parliamentary Sub Committee was just a show to the public that Government was consulting when in fact it had no desire to listen and act. The FTUC has repeatedly cautioned Government of the shortcomings in the Amendment Act to fully comply with the ILO Core Conventions. It is now apparent that the AG wishes to believe his own bluff and mislead people. We say that he can continue to do so at his own peril. He must not blame FTUC for raising the same issues at ILO in November as that appears now to be the only option left. Government has gone deaf on these facts.

The Fiji Governments reputation as one that cannot be trusted will also be reinforced in November for its total disregard for the Tripartite Agreement that it has signed. The Government appears to think that it is alright to sign agreements at international forums in full knowledge and presence of the Governing Body of ILO Comprising of Employers, Governments and Workers representatives from around the world, witnessed by the Director General of ILO and then totally disregard it. We put Government on notice that FTUC will vigorously pursue these matters at ILO. The responsibility of the outcome must be borne by the AG and his Government.

All these issues are coupled by the controversy that surrounds the departure of the ILO Regional Director from Fiji so suddenly. The FTUC is fully aware of the circumstances and will pursue this matter with ILO. The Government has much to explain in regards to its conduct in this instance. This is not the first time that this Government has acted in such a brash manner with ILO, the last being the expulsion of the ILO Contacts mission. It certainly is a slow learner.

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

10th July 2015

Version 1 Bill-No-10-Employment-Relations-(2)(7)

Final version -Bill-No-10-Employment-Relations-(Amendment)-with-Amendment-(1)(1)

Report on ERP Amendments by Sub Com

No Invitation to Talks- FTUC

Adapted from Fiji Sun July 09 07 15

The Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) remains defiant that there is nothing to talk about.

Refer newslink http://fijisun.com.fj/2015/07/09/ftuc-still-defiant-claims-no-talks/

Its national president Daniel Urai was commenting on the public statement made by the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama issuing an open invitation to the unions to come to the negotiation table with an open mind with a desire to move the nation forward.

Mr Urai said there was no official invite by the Prime Minister to end the stand-off between the Government and FTUC over labour law reforms. The reforms are in the Employment Relations Promulgation Bill (2015) passed by Parliament yesterday.

Mr Bainimarama said during a break from Parliament yesterday: “We just finished debating a major piece of legislation that concerns them, and all what we’ve been talking about in terms of labour relations. In terms of my open invitation to them, they should have been here, listening to what was being said.”

Mr Urai said: “We haven’t received any invite from him, all we are reading is through the media,” Mr Urai said.

“On the first part in the article he is inviting the unions and secondly in the same article he runs down the union by saying that the union representatives were using their union seats for political gains.

“Is that the way to invite someone, even if it is coming from the Prime Minister, is it how you send an invite,” he said.

He said, if the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, had made it clear that they were in compliance with the core values of the International Labour Organisation than what was the purpose of this invite.

“We all know that the FTUC and the Government signed an agreement in Geneva and it was tabled in Parliament,” he said.

“What we said is that what was tabled was not something that was agreed on.”

He said since there were disagreements, they wrote to the ILO in regards to it and the Attorney-General responded saying they were in compliance with the ILO.

“So if the A-G is saying that they are being compliant with the labour law than what is left there to talk about, what is the purpose of the invite? Mr Urai said.

When asked if they would still go and meet the PM if an official invite was sent to FTUC, Mr Urai said it was unlikely for the invite to come.

“We haven’t got any invite from the PM and I am not sure if he will do so.”

Parliament passes ERP Amendment Bill despite huge opposition

The FTUC is appalled that Parliament has passed the Bill No 10 : An Act to Amend the Employment Relations Promulgation,  without considering its implications.

Adapted from newslink- Fiji Sun July 9th 2015. http://fijisun.com.fj/2015/07/09/we-comply-with-core-ilo-values-says-a-g/

The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the new Employment Relations Promulgation (Amendment) Bill allowed the right to collective bargaining and the right to free association.

He said this complied with the core values of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The ERP Bill was endorsed by Parliament yesterday after a report on the Bill was submitted by the chairman of the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights, Ashneel Sudhakar.

Mr Sudhakar said a lot of work had been put into the report that provided the basis for the amendments.

“Therefore, it becomes important for any government to provide employment laws which not only protects its workers and allows certain freedoms, but are also consistent with international conventions,” he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum revealed that some of the unique provisons of the new law included arbitration courts that helped prevent discrimination against workers suffering from HIV/AIDS.

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad suggested that the Government was inviting a Commission of Inquiry by the ILO, because he alleged that there were still loopholes in the new Bill.

However, Minister for Health Jone Usamate praised the bill for its holistic approach to dealing with labour issues .