Government Fails Again
It is now apparent that the Fiji Government has no intention of honoring the Tripartite Agreement signed in Geneva on 25th March 2015 with the FTUC and FCEF. The Agreement was signed after negotiations between the FTUC and Government, at Governments insistence to avoid an ILO Commission of Inquiry into Fiji. The Agreement called for the Government to:
1. Ensure that the ERP remains the primary basis for labour management relations.
2. To review all labour laws and ensure compliance with ILO Core Conventions
3. Include the review already conducted by ERAB in 2013.
4. Negotiate and agree any other issues any Party may raise.
5. Restore check-off facilities immediately
6. Submit a joint implementation report to the June session of ILO Governing Body.
The Agreement also required Government to ensure that labour law review was completed and presented to Parliament by end of August 2015 and implemented by end of October 2015. Based on the above undertaking by Government, the Governing Body agreed to defer a decision on the Commission of Inquiry until the November 2015 Session. Government on its own accord made some changes to the Employment Relations Promulgation without the agreement of FTUC through an Amendment Bill in Parliament on 8th July 2015. These amendments fall far short of the agreement signed and in breach of that agreement. None of the six agreed matters have been complied with fully. The ERP has been amended to include provisions from the ENI Decree which was never agreed to. Compliance falls far short of ILO requirements. The inclusions of the earlier review and other matters have not been done at all. Check off is only partially restored. A joint report was not submitted because of Governments insistence of its own version of the report which was factually incorrect. This has once again been a show of bad faith and the fact that this Government cannot be trusted on its word, even if it has signed an agreement witnessed by the Director General of ILO.
The FTUC on 9th June 2015 requested Government to set a date for Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) to meet and deal with the issues in the Agreement. The Solicitor General’s office advised on 10th June 2015 that they would advise at a later date. Since, 3 other reminders have been sent without a response from Government. The National Secretary of FTUC visited the Minister of Labour on two occasions to follow up on the request on Friday 24th July 2015 and Tuesday 11th August 2015. On both occasions FTUC was advised that Government would revert and advise as to when we could meet. In addition to this FCEF has made several requests to Government for meetings and were advised of the same.
Quite apart from the breach of the Agreement, the current implementation of the ERP at best can be described as very poor. Disputes reported by Unions take more than a year or two to be accepted in breach of the ERP. Matters before the Arbitration Tribunal can take 5 years or more to be heard and judgment can be reserved indefinitely again in breach of the provisions of the ERP. Excess into workplaces are being denied and a good example is the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) despite the laws allowing excess. Amalgamations of unions are withheld despite laws being followed by unions. These are just some examples which have been repeatedly brought to the Ministry’s attention without any action taken. The ILO Conventions are not only about laws being compliant but also about practice. These will be highlighted in the FTUC report.
The Parties are to submit a joint implementation report to the next Governing Body meeting of ILO in Early November. The deadline for the submission of this report is mid-October. Since the meetings have not taken place, it is no longer possible to submit a joint report as required by the Governing Body of ILO. We put on record that the failure is on part of the Government and it must take full responsibility for the outcome of the November Governing Body meeting. It cannot blame FTUC. The Attorney General’s recent comment that Fiji will not accept a Commission of Inquiry again demonstrates his arrogance and ignorance of the ILO procedures. Such demonstration of blatant disregard and breach of the Agreement and numerous undertakings, given by the Prime Minister and numerous other Government officials and Ministers at many ILO meetings, to respect workers’ rights and adhere to ILO Conventions, firmly relegates Fiji into the league of rouge nations.
The FTUC remains steadfast in its struggle to ensure restoration of workers’ rights and dignity at work. In the circumstances, it will strongly support a Commission of Inquiry into Fiji.
20th Aug 230pm