MP urges open dialogue

Source: Fiji Times

Vuniwaqa Bola-Bari
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

FORMER unionist turned Member of Parliament Mikaele Leawere has pleaded with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama to talk to the unions and discuss issues of mutual interest with them.

Mr Leawere said this as he also refuted claims by Mr Bainimarama that unions were holding the country to ransom.

Mr Bainimarama earlier said the country “cannot allow a relatively small group of people to hold the nation to ransom by misrepresenting us and our circumstances to the rest of the world and disrupting our industries and services”.

Mr Leawere said this was far from the truth.

“I plead with the Prime Minister to talk to the unions and discuss issues of mutual interest with them,” Mr Leawere said.

“Mr Alain Pelce, senior international labour standards specialist at the International Labour Organization, was in Fiji to submit the organisation’s position on the ERP Amendment Bill No.10, 2015 at their own expense.

“Government did not comply with ILO conventions regarding ENI decrees, bargaining units, freedom of association,” Mr Leawere said.

He added unions had been working under stressful conditions and every move they made was covered with decrees.

“This makes it virtually impossible to go against them (Government), especially freedom of speech and the right to collective bargaining.

“To say that unions are damaging the jobs of other workers is mischievous because the upper hand is with the Government and every movement they make is being thwarted all the way,” he said.

The former unionist with the Fijian Teachers Association said “the presence of ILO and other unionists during the consultations did provide the much needed platform to submit what they needed Government to hear.

“Unions are made up of very good people who have the country and workers’ interest at heart and the last thing they want to see is to create instability in as far as the economy is concerned.”