The FTUC welcomes the decision of the ILO Governing Body on Fiji at its meeting in Geneva on Wednesday 11th November 2015. The Governing Body once again deliberated on the Fiji situation and the lack of progress in complying with the Tripartite Agreement of March 2015 between Government, FTUC and FCEF. The joint Agreement has six action points that parties needed to comply with. They were:
1. That all labour management relations would be governed by the ERP.
2. That all amendments would comply with the ILO Core Labour Standards.
3. That the review of the ERP conducted by the Tripartite Partners in 2013 would be acted upon.
4. That Government would reinstate Check-off (Union Dues deduction)
5. That all the above would be done within a certain time-frame i.e. Legislative amendments to Parliament by end of August 2015 and implementation by end of October 2015
6. That the Parties to the Agreement would submit a joint report to the June 2015 session of the GB.
The Government failed to comply with the above provisions and unilaterally decided upon some amendments to the ERP. As such, no joint report could be made to the Governing Body in June 2015. No meetings were convened despite many requests from FTUC and FCEF. On the eve of this Governing Body meeting, Government convened a reconstituted ERAB meeting which FTUC refused to attend. The Agenda was to rubber stamp a report that Government prepared to the Governing Body. The Government and others, however, met and decided on a monthly meeting to address the violations. Based on this decision, Government attempted through the Asia Pacific Government Grouping (ASPAG) at the ILO to defer the report of any Tripartite Delegation to Fiji to June 2016 and a decision on the Commission of Inquiry by November 2016. This Resolution was put to the Governing Body by the Australian Government and was defeated. Employers, EU and many other Governments supported the Resolution that was originally tabled. This Resolution reiterates its regret to the continuing failure to submit a joint report from Government, FTUC and FCEF. It is noteworthy that the decision recognizes the parties to the joint report that the ILO is seeking. Government is not at liberty to call in whoever it wants to sign on to a joint report. In this respect, the FTUC calls upon Government to disband its new ERAB and re-constitute the original ERAB to meet without delay. FTUC will not be a party to Governments efforts to dilute representative rights to FTUC and FCEF. Such actions on part of Government only serve to undermine the parties to the Geneva Agreement and weaken the social partners.
The GB Decision also now calls on Government to accept a Tripartite Mission to Fiji to review the ongoing obstacles to a joint report and observance of the ILO Core Conventions. Having noted that in the past, there were considerable difficulties in gaining agreement of Government for ILO Missions, the GB also decided that should the Mission not be able to visit Fiji and submit a report by March 2016, then the March 2016 GB should decide on a Commission of Inquiry. The Governing Body has also decided that Fiji would be on the agenda of its March 2016 meeting.
The FTUC and the Workers Group at the ILO also considers the decision to also recognize the efforts of the Minister for Labour and to give him an opportunity to comply with the Agreement signed. We also welcome the efforts of the Minister for Labour and look forward to working with him and FCEF. We reiterate that work on this must begin without delay and not on the eve of the next GB meeting.
This decision gives Government another opportunity to act upon the Agreement without delay. This is an opportunity for Government to do the right thing for Fiji and her international reputation. Failure to act would have serious negative impact on the Country. It cannot simply sit back and play mischief with workers and blaming Unions and its leaders as holding the country to ransom or holding a gun to Government’s head. It must take full responsibility for its failure to act. The Government would be shooting itself in the foot if it does not take up this opportunity.