Salaries reduced

Fiji Teachers Union members at the 87th annual general meeting and conference in Ba. Picture: REINAL CHAND

THE Ministry of Education is shortchanging teachers, says Fiji Teachers Union general secretary Agni Deo Singh.

Mr Singh said the ministry was taking every opportunity to take money away from the country’s educators.

“Short-changing means that they have reduced the salary for diploma teachers to that of certificate level teachers,” he said.

“They are saying that if a graduate comes with a completion certificate meaning he or she has obtained a diploma or degree, they will be employed but only paid as a certificate level teacher until they attend their graduation ceremony months later. This does not make any sense at all because the ministry says despite having a completion certificate the teacher is still unqualified.

“They get them to do the job, pay them far less until they attend a graduation ceremony.”

Mr Singh said by doing this the ministry was cutting corners.

“They are throwing money around everywhere else but not in the areas that matter.”

A full transcript of Mr Singh’s views was sent to Minister for Education Dr Mahendra Reddy, who responded by saying he did not want to comment on the issue.

Source:  The Fiji Times

By:  Repeka Nasiko


Teachers: Reinstate allowance

The Fiji Teachers Union has called for the reinstatement of allowances for teacher transfers.

FTU National President Muniappa Goundar said the Education Ministry stopped paying teachers posted to another school.

“It is the latest trend that the Ministry of Education has stopped paying promoted teachers their transfer allowance stating that the movement is the choice of the officer,” he said.

“This is totally unjustifiable as promotion is the achievement of an officer, and it becomes the responsibility of the ministry to pay for such disturbance resulting in the movement of an officer to continue with that quality delivery, but at a new station of work.

“It sounds very cheap of the ministry to deprive officers of their basic rights by cutting corners at every opportunity.”

Mr Goundar said congestion in urban schools was also a growing problem that teachers had to contend with.

Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy said he would not comment on the union’s views.

“While the union is appreciative of the fact that extra teachers have been deployed in some rural and remote schools, the same cannot be said for the urban schools.

“I sympathise with urban colleagues who have to teach large classes.

“This is made more difficult when some teachers are away from school and the already large classes are combined.

“Here the safety of students is compromised and learning is greatly affected.”

The statements made by Mr Goundar were emailed to Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy, who said he would not comment on the union’s views.

Source:  The Fiji Times

By:  Repeka Nasiko


“Accurate data will help to save lives”

“Countries that have good data will be better placed to fulfil their commitment to implement and report on the global plan of action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all under the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” says ILO Director-General on World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28th April.

© Jesse A. Lora / NAVFAC

On this World Day for Safety and Health at Work , the ILO highlights the urgent need for vastly improved national occupational safety and health (OSH) data.

It is estimated that over 2.3 million fatalities and 300 million accidents causing injuries occur in the workplace each year. However, these estimates do not properly reflect the magnitude of the problem, nor the real impact of occupational accidents and diseases on workers, families and economies. Better national data is needed for a better understanding of the dimensions and consequences of work-related accidents, injuries and diseases and to underpin effective policies and strategies for safe and healthy workplaces.

Reliable OSH data facilitates priority setting and gives the basis for measuring progress. It is indispensable for the detection of new hazards and emerging risks, the identification of hazardous sectors, the development of preventive measures, as well as the implementation of policies, systems and programmes at national and enterprise levels. It also helps with the early detection and diagnosis of occupational diseases as well as with measures for their recognition and compensation.

Improved and harmonized OSH data facilitates meaningful comparative analysis and informed effective awareness raising. With good data, prevention strategies can be honed and the design of OSH legislation enhanced. Additionally, there can be more effective social dialogue on OSH issues among stakeholders including government, employers’ and workers’ organizations.

Countries that have good data will be better placed to fulfil their commitment to implement and report on the global plan of action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all under the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development . SDG 8: “Inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all ” calls for the protection of labour rights and promotion of safe and secure working environments for all workers, including those in precarious employment.

Today the ILO renews its commitment to support member States’ efforts to strengthen their capacity to prevent occupational accidents and diseases including through practical measures such as our OSH Toolbox which contains resources to help improve the capacity to collect and use reliable OSH data.

Accurate data will help to save lives. Let us make it a priority.

Statement by ILO Director:  Mr Guy Ryder

Union awaits word

THE Fiji Teachers Union says it is concerned about the lack of communication by the Ministry of Education regarding the implementation of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal four.

The UN SDG goal four deals with quality education.

FTU general secretary Agni Deo Singh said they had not received any feedback on their submissions to the ministry.

“We have time and again been asking the ministry to consult stakeholders, especially the teacher unions in the formulation, implementation and review of all education policies so that we can work together to improve education,” he said.

“This is one area that is seriously lacking especially at the top level.”

Mr Singh said a major obstacle was how all decisions had to be agreed upon by the minister. “We have been talking to the permanent secretary but as we all know, as the Fijian Constitution now stipulates, the permanent secretary can only implement any decision through the concurrence of the minister so now the minister actually has a decision-making power in the actual operations of the ministry.

“That is where we see that the permanent secretary is handicapped.

“Unless the minister agrees, he cannot implement any decisions.

“There have been many occasions in the last year when we have met, where the permanent secretary has agreed with our suggestions and our advice on policies and he assured us he would speak with the minister about the implementation but each time we meet again, he says that he has left the recommendation with the minister and unfortunately there is nothing forthcoming from his office.

“This is one of our serious concerns and I hope that this is looked into,” said Mr Singh.

A transcript of the entire interview with Mr Singh was sent to Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy via email but he did not wish to comment on the issues raised by the union.

Source:  The Fiji Times

By:  Repeka Nasiko

Singh: Teachers still affected by board

THE Fiji Teachers Union says it is still waiting for a response from the Ministry of Education for the repayment of thousands of dollars lost by teachers who were allegedly disciplined by the now defunct Disciplinary Services Board.

FTU general secretary Agni Deo Singh claimed six teachers, who were previously demoted or terminated during the tenure of the DSB — and before it was disbanded in December last year, had been slapped with the same charges under the ministry’s normal disciplinary procedures.

“There are at least six teachers who received charges again after several months,” he claimed.

“They have been reinstated but those thousands of dollars that they lost after being demoted or terminated is still yet to be paid back to them and that’s a big shame.

“The least the ministry could have done was to turn a new leaf and let them continue teaching in their professional career.

“They have punished them once and now they want to punish for a second time.”

Mr Singh said the board was disbanded by the Ministry of Public Services last year after a complaint by the union.

“The board was disbanded through a directive of the Minister of Public Service in December because he clearly stated that this board was unconstitutional and illegal and that’s why through that directive these teachers were reinstated.

“But the teachers are still being victimised because they are being recharged under the normal disciplinary procedures.

“The fact is that these teachers have already suffered for several months.”

FTU national president Muniappa Goundar said the ministry had totally disregarded the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.

“The right of representation was also denied,” he said about the disbanded board.

A transcript of the entire interview with Mr Singh was sent to Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy via email but he did not wish to comment on the issues raised by the union.

Source:  The Fiji Times

By:  Repeka Nasiko

FTU: Vernacular, culture need to be taught in schools

FTU General Secretary, Mr Agni Deo Singh

TWO of the biggest unifying forces — vernacular and culture — need to be taught at primary and high school if the country is to fully embrace what it truly means to be Fijian, says the Fiji Teachers Union.

FTU General Secretary Agni Deo Singh said cross-cultural training in the iTaukei and Hindi languages and traditions would be a good starting point.

Mr Singh said a program which was pioneered in the 1970s where iTaukei students learnt Hindi and Fijians of Indian descent learnt the iTaukei language had declined over time when no attempt was made to improve on it.

He said proof of this was evident in the very low number of people who could speak or understood a vernacular language.

“This, I believe, is one of the many reasons we are still far apart in terms of respecting each other’s cultures, traditions and languages,” he said.

“It is simply because we only understand each other at a very superficial level and not as in-depth as we should.”

Mr Singh said the erosion of values evidenced by the number of issues at schools could also be attributed to the lack of understanding of vernacular and culture.

“If we lose our language, we lose our culture and we lose our values.

“In Fiji, we have a very serious problem with values education and one of the major reasons is that students are not able to read religious and spiritual books in their own or each other’s languages and understand the values that are taught.”

Questions sent to the Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy two weeks ago and again yesterday about the issues raised by Mr Singh remained unanswered when this edition went to press last night.

Source:  The Fiji Times

By:  Felix Chaudhary

FTUC Press Release – Safety In Mines

There have been too many fatal and serious accidents at Vatukoula Gold Mines over the years.  In each case we are told that investigations will be conducted.  However, none of the reports of the investigations have been made public or made available to the Occupational Health and Safety Board.  Therefore no improvements in safety have been made over the years.  There is a high rate of work related injuries and sickness at the Mines.  These are treated as normal sickness.

Recently, one worker has been killed and 2 others seriously injured.  The Fiji Trades Union Congress welcomes the audit of the mines which is long overdue.  We call upon Government to include the Mines in the Occupational Health and Safety at Work Act.  The mining industry is the only industry excluded from this Act.  Mining is the most dangerous industry and there is no reason why there should not be safety standards applying to the mines just like every other workplace in Fiji.  The FTUC has made numerous calls for the implementation of safety standards in the mines for many years now. Unfortunately, Government has not seen the need for any laws that would make our mines safer.  However whenever an accident occurs, there is a concern aired and soon forgotten.

We are also advised that workers have been sent home without pay due to the closure of the mine for audit.  The FTUC calls upon Government to ensure that all workers are paid for the time they are denied work according to Section 24 of the Employment Relations Act.

Workers in the mines are entitled to safe and healthy working conditions.  We look forward to the audit report and appropriate action taken to make the mines safe for workers. Too many families have lost their breadwinners in the mines.  The FTUC calls for immediate action to include the mining industry within the coverage of the OHS Act.

By:  Felix Anthony

ILO launches “Jobs Make the Difference” report

© Laith Abu Sha’ireh / ILO

BEIRUT (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) Regional Director for Arab States Ruba Jaradat will participate in the launch of the report “Jobs Makes the Difference: Expanding Economic Opportunities for Syrian Refugees and Host Communities,” during an event on the side-lines of the Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region conference in Brussels on 5 April.

The Jobs Make the Difference: Expanding Economic Opportunities for Syrian Refugees and Host Communities  assessment is a collaborative effort between WFP, UNDP and the ILO. As the Syrian crisis enters its seventh year, the report provides pragmatic, empirically-grounded evidence to support efforts by the three key actors – host nations, the international donor community and the private sector – in achieving the ambitious goal of creating 1.1 million new jobs by 2018 as pledged in the Supporting Syria and the Region conference, held in London over a year ago.

“The ‘Jobs Make the Difference’ report is indeed a very important initiative, as it has given us an overview of the shared challenges facing the six countries it covers,” Regional Director Jaradat said ahead of the Brussels launch event. “It also tells us which challenges are unique to specific countries, and which initiatives have worked and can be replicated. It is an important stock-taking and learning exercise as we move forward in responding to the Syria refugee crisis,” Jaradat continued.

The ILO has been working hand-in-hand with host countries and development partners to support the commitments of the London conference and efforts to increase economic opportunities and employment creation in the region – for both refugees and host communities – through promoting an employment-rich national response , embedded in the principles of decent work .

Without decent jobs, the chances to move from fragility to peace and resilience are modest, because decent work serves as an important bridge between the humanitarian and developmental dimensions of the response.”  Ruba Jaradat, Regional Director

Creating decent jobs is now at the heart of efforts by the international community’s response to the Syrian crisis. The ILO has been internationally and locally advocating not only for creating more jobs for those affected by the crisis, but increasingly for improving the quality of these jobs.

In Jordan for example, the ILO has worked closely with the Government and provided policy advice on introducing reforms to procedures for issuing work permits for refugees. As a result, the number of work permits issued to Syrian refugees in Jordan between April 2016 and today has increased by over ten-fold (from 3,800 in April 2016 to more than 44,000 as of end March 2017, out of which 13,000 work permits were in the agriculture sector due to ILO’s support to cooperatives). The ILO in partnership with UNHCR will soon launch an assessment study on the impact of work permit reforms on Syrian refugees in the labour market in Jordan.

In Lebanon, the ILO is implementing a comprehensive Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) portfolio that addresses improved involvement of the private sector and ensures adequate pathways to employment in both the formal and the informal TVET provided. Improvements in the TVET provision will benefit an estimated 21,000 persons.

Notably, in both Lebanon and Jordan, the ILO – with funding from the German Development Bank (KFW) – has launched two Employment Intensive Infrastructure Programmes to create jobs for Syrian refugees and host communities and upgrade infrastructure. The projects also support capacity building of local contractors and advise government institutions on how to increase labour intensity and integrate core labour standards into their public infrastructure programmes.

Under these two initiatives, projects such as road maintenance, construction of terraces, water cisterns, greenhouses and irrigation systems, are set to create just under 600,000 workdays for Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon over the coming two years.

The refugee crisis provides an opportunity to also address structural labour market weaknesses and increasing the involvement of workers in tripartite consultations, in host countries – critical to creating a path towards decent work for all.

The launch event was held on the side-lines of the ministerial-level Brussels conference. The conference has brought together 70 countries, international organizations and civil society organizations to reconfirm existing pledges and identify additional support to Syrians both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries, as well as to the respective host communities. It also discussed supporting a lasting political resolution to the Syrian conflict through an inclusive and Syrian-led political transition process under the UN auspices, as well as assessing how post-agreement assistance could be provided once a political transition is underway.

Source:  ILO Newsroom

FTU: Poor maths pass no surprise

THE Education Ministry should not be surprised at the dismal results of mathematics passes over the past two years given the policies it has implemented and reductions it has made in key areas.

This is the view of Fiji Teachers Union General Secretary Agni Deo Singh.

He was responding to recent revelations by Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy that there has not been a single high school level which has attained a percentage pass above 50 in mathematics in all external examinations over the past two years.

Mr Singh said the reduction of executive teachers in primary school level, ballooning primary class sizes and increasing the amount of paperwork required of teachers, were some of the reasons for the dismal mathematics results.

“As the result of a job evaluation exercise in 1999, 854 executive teachers were appointed in primary schools in the country,” Mr Singh said.

“This was reduced by 50 per cent as a cost-cutting measure in 2009 when all ministries were required to cut costs by 10 per cent.

“Later on the Education Ministry further reduced the numbers and now only the smallest schools which have four teachers, ED6D schools, have one executive teacher — all other positions have been removed.

“So as far as monitoring, assisting and mentoring teachers is concerned at classroom level, we have actually gone into reverse gear.”

The union head said another issue contributing to the poor performance of students was classroom sizes. He said a number of primary schools in the Central Division had in excess of 60 students in one classroom and this was a serious issue.

“The minister himself said in the last education forum that there were urban schools which had between 50 and 64 students in one classroom,” Mr Singh said.

“And we have been saying this repeatedly, that no meaningful teaching can take place with these kinds of numbers.

“We are aware of one school in Suva which has four Year One streams and all have more than 60 students, which means there are more than 250 students and several other schools in the urban centre have similar numbers.

“If you have 60-plus in each class, you can expect half not to be able to grasp basic concepts.

“We have suggested to the ministry to engage an extra teacher in schools that have space constraints and this will improve the teaching of basic concepts to all students.”

Mr Singh said the increasing amount of paperwork required by the ministry from head teachers was also affecting their ability to improve education in schools.

Source:  Fiji Times

By:  Felix Chaudhary

Revised ILO MNE Declaration will help promote indigenous peoples’ rights

Positive engagement by businesses with indigenous and tribal peoples in line with the MNE Declaration could lead to stronger relationships, less conflict and new opportunities in ensuring inclusive and sustainable development for all.

For the first time, the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No. 169)  was included in the revised Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration)  adopted by the ILO Governing Body in March 2017 . Its inclusion highlights the relevance of the MNE Declaration for governments, social partners, multinational and national enterprises in addressing indigenous peoples’ issues in their policies, strategies and practices. Indigenous and tribal peoples constitute about 5 per cent of the world’s population, or nearly 370 million people spread across over 70 countries.

Indigenous and tribal peoples – accounting for almost 15 per cent of the world’s poor – are uniquely vulnerable to discrimination and exclusion. They face specific difficulties in accessing quality education, decent work opportunities, support for income generating activities, and social protection. They are also among the most affected by the impacts of climate change and land dispossession.

Convention No. 169 is the only international treaty open for ratification specifically dedicated to indigenous peoples’ rights, currently ratified by 22 countries , including 14 in Latin America. It is based on the recognition of the aspirations of indigenous and tribal peoples around the world to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and development and to maintain and develop their identities, languages and religions, within the framework of the States in which they live. Emphasizing the principles of equality, consultation, participation and cooperation, the Convention is a framework for participatory democracy, social peace and sustainable development.

The MNE Declaration is the only global instrument adopted in a tripartite manner by governments, employers and workers from around the world that aims to encourage the positive contribution of business to socio-economic development and the global goal of decent work, and to mitigate and resolve possible negative impacts of business activities. The revised MNE Declaration responds to new economic realities and developments since its last update in 2006. It was strengthened through new principles addressing specific decent work priorities such as equality of opportunity and treatment, forced labour, transition from the informal to the formal economy, social security, occupational safety and health and industrial relations. The MNE Declaration’s principles build on specific ILO Declarations, standards, guidelines and codes of practice relevant to the Tripartite Declaration, including Convention No. 169.

The revised MNE Declaration provides clear guidance and a framework for companies on how they can contribute through their operations to decent work. It also calls upon multinational enterprises, as part of their corporate responsibility, to respect human rights, to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others, and to gauge human rights risks by assessing adverse human rights impacts through their activities or business relationships. It stipulates that this process should involve meaningful consultations with potentially affected groups.

The inclusion of Convention No. 169 in the revised MNE Declaration highlights that companies have a direct interest in acting in accordance with the principles of the Convention, including in the context of their human rights due diligence efforts. Such efforts will help to ensure legitimacy, partnerships and sustainability.

Positive engagement with indigenous peoples in line with the MNE Declaration’s employment promotion and equality principles can bring a range of benefits, including stronger relationships with communities resulting in fewer conflicts, stronger government relationships, reputational benefits, employee engagement and the ability to partner with and learn from indigenous people’s unique contributions and knowledge.

According to Convention No. 169 it is the responsibility of the State to consult with indigenous peoples regarding legislative or administrative measures which may affect them directly. However, a key challenge continues to be the lack of strong mechanisms for such consultations, and the absence of regulatory and public policy environments which are conducive to both economic activities and the rights and interests of indigenous peoples. The inclusion of Convention No. 169 in the MNE Declaration’s list of relevant international labour standards provides additional leverage for governments, enterprises, employers’ and workers’ organizations, and indigenous and tribal peoples to come together to address these issues and to examine the establishment of mechanisms and procedures for consultations as envisaged in the Convention.

It thus provides in countries with indigenous and tribal peoples enhanced opportunities for inclusive growth and local economic development through appropriate laws and policies, responsible company practices and effective dialogue mechanisms.

Source:  ILO Newsroom

By:  Martin Oelz, ILO Senior Specialist on Equality and Non-Discrimination