The most recent report from the Committee of Freedom of Association was presented to the Governing Body of ILO on Wednesday 22nd March 2017 in Geneva and was adopted. The report recalled its last report on Fiji and the outstanding issues that needed following up.
The Committee examined the Governments response on progress made. The Fiji Government once again gave its undertaking that it is committed to implementing the Joint Implementation Report (“JIR”) signed by the Fiji Trades Union Congress, the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation and Government last February 2016 and the ERP Amendment Act 2016. This means that the Government needs to ensure that the Arbitration Court is fully operational with sufficient resources, the determination of Essential Industries and the finalization of the Labour Law Review which has been ongoing since 2013 to ensure that the laws fully comply with all Core Conventions of ILO and ratified Conventions.
The Committee has once again requested that the:
“Government to keep it informed on the functioning in practice of the ERAB and that the Government will continue to show commitment to implement the JIR and the 2016 ERP amendment.”
The Committee of Experts has also requested the Government:
“to provide concrete information on the progress made in addressing all pending matters in this regard in the near future.”
The Fiji Trades Union Congress remains concerned at the slow pace in which the implementation process is progressing. The Arbitration Court has been overloaded with a backlog of cases without sufficient resources to cope. It is now more than a year and the Court has been unable to become fully operational. The problem is further compounded by the fact that the Tribunal needs to be Tripartite with the availability of representatives to sit for hearings has been a constant problem. The Fiji Trades Union Congress calls upon the Government to review the composition and resources allocated to the Arbitration Court together with the social partners.
The Committee of Experts had also called upon the Government to reinstate Collective Agreements that were abrogated by the ENI Decree. The Government unfortunately misled the Committee to believe that it was not possible as new Collective Agreements were negotiated and were in place. The Fiji Trades Union Congress is unaware of any new Agreement being negotiated and registered in any company that fell within the ENI Decree. The Report states:
“The Committee request the Government to indicate whether all collective agreements abrogated by the ENID were replaced by newly negotiated collective agreements and, should this not be the case, to take the necessary measures to ensure that, at least in the public sector, collective agreements abrogated by the ENID can be used as a basis for re-negotiations.”
The Fiji Trades Union Congress will be submitting a report to the Committee to indicate that Governments claims were totally misleading and untrue. We remain concerned at such behavior and call upon the Government to show sincerity and honesty is such matters. The Fiji Trades Union Congress will advise its affiliates to take note of the Committee of Experts request and ensure that workers are not short changed by agreeing to lesser terms and conditions that they enjoyed prior to the ENID.
The Committee of Experts also again raised concerns on the Public Order Amendment Decree and denounced arrest of citizens under the Decree. The Report states:
“The Committee wishes to emphasize the importance it attaches to freedom of assembly in the context of trade union rights and in view of the concerns previously raised as to the adverse effects of the POAD can have on legitimate trade union activities, request the Government to ensure that it is not used to impede the exercise of these rights.”
The Committee also once again requested Government to reinstate Mr. Rajeshwar Singh as the Workers Representative in ATS from which he was removed by Government. The Committee welcomed the withdrawal of charges against Daniel Urai.
The Fiji Trades Union Congress remains concerned that Government had not consulted the FCEF and FTUC prior to reporting to ILO. This is normal standard practice and demonstrates true tripartism. The Government cannot run to the social partners to avoid a Commission of Inquiry and then act on its own. The FTUC calls upon the Government to act upon the Committees report without delay. The FTUC will closely monitor progress and will not hesitate to file a separate report should the Government continue down the current path. Similarly, we expect proper consultations with the FTUC on the setting of the minimum wage in accordance with the ILO Convention 26 and 131. We also note that the Industry Wages Councils have also been dormant and urge Government to act upon this matter without delay.
Felix Anthony, National Secretary