A full investigation by an independent investigator into ATS required- Felix Anthony

The FTUC welcomes the Employment Relations Tribunal’s ruling on Saturday 20th January, 2018, ordering the ATS Management to allow workers back to work with pay for the period they have been denied work. This resolves the immediate issue of workers being denied work and unfair conditions being imposed by the Chair of the Board of ATS on workers if they were to return to work.

The impasse between the Management and FASA lasted thirty-five (35) days where Management hired scabs and airlines had to bring in their own engineers to certify aircrafts. Security Officers were used to clean aircrafts and handle local baggage while mechanics were used to service the aircrafts. All this happened without any inspections or supervision to ensure compliance by CAAFI which is the body responsible for the safety and security of all operations.

No doubt, ATS incurred massive additional cost and loss to its reputation. This includes paying workers who were denied work for thirty-five (35) days and paying workers that worked triple time rates. The Tribunal ruling is very straight forward. Management did not follow proper procedures as stipulated in the Collective Agreement and had no right to “suspend” workers without pay. This was very obvious from day one and Management in Mediation was reminded by the Union of this breach. However, Management as always decided that it would not be moved and the Collective Agreement did not matter. This is the very attitude that gave rise to the many grievances that workers have, some over a very long period. The big question is, who is going to take responsibility for the losses that have incurred because of mismanagement. FTUC would like to see some accountability for this fiasco. The country had been told that the Chairman had made the decision to force workers to sign an admission of fault before being allowed back to work. The Chief Executive Officer parroted those demands. It must be remembered that every dollar that is lost through mismanagement, forty-nine cents belong to workers. It is time for those that were responsible for this mess to own up and do the honorable thing.

The FTUC demands the resignation of the Chair of the Board and the Chief Executive Officer of ATS. They cannot be allowed to continue in office after being proven to be incompetent. Workers in ATS in the past have been terminated for minor mishaps costing the company little or nothing. We say the same rules apply.

It is absurd that this same management is attempting to continue to justify its actions by stating that disciplinary actions can still be taken on employees. This is nothing but a face saving strategy and one that any good Human Resources Manager would advise against. Now is the time to heal and get the ATS house in order and this management is not capable of doing that while licking its wounds. A fresh start is needed. The many pending grievances of workers need a resolution.  FTUC calls upon Government to now wake up and do the right thing. Above all, respect workers’ and shareholders’ rights in the company.

The FTUC also demands answers from CAAFI as to why they allowed the regulations to be violated freely and a blanket dispensation given to ATS during this saga. Is this to say that it is now alright for the operations at the airport to continue as they have for thirty-five (35) days and the regulations continue to be ignored and those that are responsible for the compliance of those regulations are absolved from any accountability?

It has also been a shameful act where airlines boasted of safety and security being the foremost concern, so willingly compromised every rule in the book just to keep operations normal. It has become clear that at the end of the day, only profits matter.

The FTUC calls for a full investigation by an independent investigator into ATS and the airport  operations for the period in question and hold those in authority accountable for their lapses. This Government parrots accountability, honesty and justice but this may be the opportunity for it to showcase what it preaches.

 

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

” Back to work with full pay and no conditions” -Special sitting of Arbitration rules today

Breaking News:

THE Employment Relations Tribunal has ordered the return of all Air Terminal Services workers who were locked out by Management from  December 16, 2017.

The Resident Magistrate  Hon Mr Andrew See also ordered that all pay and entitlements from December 16, 2017 be restored.

The ruling states that  ATS must give effect to the order by issuing to all such employees new work rosters, security access ID cards and any other pre start‑work requirements within 48 hours hereof.

The order also says ATS must thereafter and on a case by case basis ensure that the pay and entitlement of each employee are reviewed and where necessary re instituted in accordance with the law.

It also says that the respondent Association and its members comply with the terms of the master agreement in order to secure and preserve amity and good relations between the company, association, and the employees and to resolve any difference of opinion or dispute between the parties.

Federated Airlines Staff Association General Secretary Vilikesa Naulumatua says they look forward to the court’s ruling being implenteted and everyone returning to work.

Fiji Trades Union Congress National Secretary Felix Anthony says the workers were prepared to return to work from the 16th of last month.

 

Watch this space for more updates

 

Source: Fiji Village news

 

 

 

 

 

Return to Work a priority – Magistrate tells parties

The Arbitration Tribunal has organized a special sitting of the Employment Relations Tribunal for the  two parties to meet on Saturday  at the Nadi Magistrates Court at 10am. Read below for more information:

Ray of hope

Felix Chaudhary – Fiji times
Wednesday, January 17, 2018

MORE than 200 Air Terminal Services (Fiji) Ltd workers camped outside their Nadi headquarters for the past 31 days could return to work soon.

This after the Employment Relations Tribunal managed to get the two parties to agree that the most pressing issue was the return to work of employees at the earliest possible time.

The tribunal convened a meeting yesterday at the Nadi Magistrates Court after ATS management filed an application for the tribunal to clarify the definition of illegal strike, among other issues.

Resident magistrate Andrew See said other issues of concern could be addressed once all 220 employees returned to work. During the proceedings, Mr See said he was well aware of the ATS saga and warned that actions of both parties over the past 31 days had not been “completely exemplary”.

He said the workers’ actions in walking off the job suggested that prima facie unlawful industrial action had been taken, but management made the situation worse by suspending workers without pay for 31 days without following established procedures for such actions.

The workers, represented by the Federated Airlines Staff Association, were represented by Kevueli Tunidau, while Noel Tofiga appeared on behalf of the ATS management.

Mr See said there were two main areas of concern: firstly whether the act of workers abandoning their posts could be viewed as misconduct; and secondly whether the company had acted lawfully when it suspended workers without pay for the past 31 days.

Mr See questioned Mr Tofiga on the legal basis and authority the company had acted upon to suspend and not pay workers without forming a disciplinary committee to address the issue first as set out in the ATS-FASA agreement.

“Ultimately, you have to look at the individual circumstances because otherwise it would not be completely fair to each individual,” said Mr See.

He said the most important issue to address was “to reconcile issues and get workers back at work as soon as possible” rather than spending a lot of time and effort in arguing whether the action taken by the workers could be defined as a strike or not.

Mr See urged both parties to resolve their issues with urgency because each day that was spent in debate and discussion meant one more day without work for ATS employees.

Mr Tunidau and Mr Tofiga informed Mr See that the only holdup in negotiations between the two parties had been the contents of a letter proposed by management for workers to sign.

Mr Tunidau informed the tribunal that the letters were incriminating and workers would not sign letters for something they were not guilty of.

Mr Tunidau had asked for seven days, but Mr See said he would rather the issue be resolved sooner than later.

In response both lawyers informed the tribunal that a new letter would be drawn up by Saturday, which could open the doors for the employees to return to work.

FASA and ATS management have also made verbal commitments to pave the way for employees and management to resolve issues, and agreement was reached for negotiations on internal issues to be resolved through established processes.

The two parties will meet on Saturday during a special sitting of the Employment Relations Tribunal at the Nadi Magistrates Court at 10am.

ITF writes to Fijian consulate Mr Khan in Sydney

The ITF has today written to Fiji Consulate General  in Sydney, Mr Zarak Khan   to lobby for  the Fijian Government to take action to end the crisis in Fiji.  Below is the text of the letter.

Text of letter to Fijian consulate: 

Consulate General of Fiji

Level 11, 100 Walker St

North Sydney NSW 2059
January 18th 2017
Dear Mr Zarak Khan,

I am writing to you as the President of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF). The ITF is a global union federation, which represents around 700 labour unions and represent 19.7 transport workers around the world. The ITF has a long history of promoting the employment and welfare of transport workers around the world.

The ITF has concerns regarding the situation of the 220 Air Terminal Services (ATS) workers at Nadi International Airport, who have been locked out since December 16, 2017. These workers were locked out by the management of the majority government-owned ATS after attending an emergency shareholders’ meeting over alleged mismanagement and appalling conditions – including sexual harassment and an 11-year pay freeze.

The ITF is alarmed about reports that experienced ground crew have been replaced by workers who lack sufficient experience. This has put safety standards at significant risk. Reports have emerged that “temporary” staff failed to report damage sustained to an Air New Zealand aircraft on the tarmac in Nadi. The airline only became aware of the damage when engineers inspected the jet on its return to Auckland.

Tourism is of course a major enterprise in Fiji, and for the industry to be successful travellers must be confident that their safety and security is assured.

Today, the ITF and affiliated unions, alongside the Australian Council of Trade Unions, request that you urgently communicate to the Government of Fiji our appeal that government ministers move swiftly to ensure the workers can immediately return to work.

The ITF is calling on the Government of Fiji to resolve this situation without delay by:

  • allowing all workers to return to work without any loss in conditions;
  • ensuring that workers do not suffer any loss for the period of the dispute;
  • commitments that no worker will be victimized for their participation in the dispute; and
  • agree to a timeline to resolve all other issues, in particular the workers’ cost of living adjustments.

It is within the Government of Fiji’s powers, and within the law, to resolve this issue. We are also asking the Australian Government to use its influence to urge the Government of Fiji to resolve this dispute promptly.

I would like the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our concerns and to facilitate a successful outcome to this dispute. Please contact Luke Menzies via phone on 0433 889 844 or email at menzies_luke@itf.org.uk to organise a meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Paddy Crumlin

ITF President

“The Government must act” – International Transport Federation President

The International Transport Federation  today called upon Fiji Government to act immediately  to end the crisis.  ITF has 16,500,000 members from 694 affiliated unions  in 149 countries.

Australian unions rally for locked-out Fijian aviation workers

Australian union activists will protest in Sydney today in support of 220 Fijian aviation ground handlers who have been locked out of their workplace at Nadi International Airport by employer Air Terminal Services (ATS) since December 16, 2017.

The rally, organized by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), will call on the Fijian Government – a 51 percent shareholder in ATS – to take urgent action to end the lockout and allow workers to return to work.

ITF President Paddy Crumlin today urged the Fijian Government to act: “For over a month, 220 workers have been locked out, simply for defending basic workers’ rights.

 

“The Fijian Government has the power to resolve this dispute and, with the livelihoods of hundreds of workers and their families on the line, we need an urgent resolution.”

The workers – baggage handlers, check-in staff, engineers and caterers – were targeted after attending a recent meeting where issues of mismanagement and appalling conditions were discussed, including an 11-year pay freeze.

A letter by Paddy Crumlin to the Fijian Consulate in Sydney will be delivered at the rally.

“The ITF is alarmed about reports that experienced ground crew have been replaced by workers who lack sufficient experience,” the letter says.

“This has put safety standards at significant risk. Reports have emerged that “temporary” staff failed to report damage sustained to an Air New Zealand aircraft on the tarmac in Nadi.

“The airline only became aware of the damage when engineers inspected the jet on its return to Auckland.

“Tourism is of course a major enterprise in Fiji, and for the industry to be successful travelers must be confident that their safety and security is assured.

“Today, the ITF and affiliated unions, alongside the Australian Council of Trade Unions, request that you urgently communicate to the Government of Fiji our appeal that government ministers move swiftly to ensure the workers can immediately return to work.”

The ITF is calling on the Government of Fiji to resolve this situation without delay by:

* allowing all workers to return to work without any loss in conditions;
* ensuring that workers do not suffer any financial loss for the period of the dispute;
* commitments that no worker will be victimized for their participation in the dispute;
*agree to a timeline to resolve all other issues, in particular the workers’ cost of living adjustments.

“The government must act to end this crisis and ensure that safety concerns don’t cause travelers to think twice about visiting Fiji,” Mr Crumlin said.

Amnesty International says ATS workers plight must be heard!

 

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=430913

Amnesty keeps watch on ATS impasse

Nasik Swami
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

INTERNATIONAL human rights body Amnesty International (AI) says the plight of Air Terminal Services (Fiji) Ltd (ATS) workers must be heard.

AI Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze said Fijian authorities must not hinder or obstruct workers, human rights organisations and others from participating in peaceful protests for fair and just working conditions.

“Fiji ATS airport workers have the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in Fiji’s Constitution,” Ms Schuetze said.

She said the constitutional rights extended to their right to strike and peacefully protest to demand fair wages or improved working conditions without fear of reprisals. Ms Schuetze claimed AI was told of alleged police searches on buses and cars travelling to Nadi for the march last Saturday. She said such an act by the police was an arbitrary and disproportionate restriction on freedom of movement.

Ms Schuetze said they were closely following the developments surrounding the dispute.

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said police would not make any comments on the issue.

 

Government must do the right thing- Anthony

 

FTUC National Secretary Felix Anthony being interviewed during the march today in Nadi – Source:  Fiji village.com

 “We expect the government to wake up and act on the ATS dispute as soon as possible.”

These were the words of FTUC General Secretary Felix Anthony who has reiterated that the march today in Nadi is in support of the ATS workers who are locked out.

He has also stated that the Prime Minister would do well to address the real issue and resolve the dispute then politicize the issues as the Unions have always been prepared to talk and negotiate.

Anthony says that the government can expect more from the ATS workers and the Unions of this country if it does not change its decision on the dispute adding that they are also considering further action such as international campaign if the dispute is not resolved soon.

On Saturday January 13th, thousands of workers, affiliate unions of the FTUC,  members of the public , NGOs, political  party representatives and  members  and families  of  the ATS  workers joined the march.

The march ended with a rally with the Nadi District School.

For previous updates please see here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-01-15/fiji-airport-workers-joined-in-protest-march/9327882

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=430569

https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/346775/ngo-stands-in-solidarity-with-ats-fiji-employees

http://fijisun.com.fj/2017/12/22/mani-150-temporary-vacancies-advertised/

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=430688

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=430453

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=430691

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=430913

A photo gallery will be uploaded soon.

end*

 

” It is ironic that PM should ask workers to sign a document admitting they are wrong” – Felix Anthony

PRESS RELEASE

FTUC’s Response to Prime Minister’s Comments on ATS Workers

 The FTUC is not surprised by the remarks attributed to the Prime Minister regarding the lockout of ATS workers. As usual, he plays the blame game on politicians and trade unionists for this unfortunate dispute but says absolutely nothing about the real issues that gave rise to this situation. He conveniently forgets that he himself is a politician and forgets to understand that as Prime Minister, his comments need to be responsible and considered.

The Federated Airline Staff Association (FASA) is an affiliate of FTUC and as such has sought the assistance and advice of FTUC. As National Secretary, I am duty bound to assist. The Prime Minister must also understand how trade union work. Their very existence is founded on workers solidarity.  It is for that reason all trade unions support the workers. In a true democracy, the citizens, political parties, Religious Organizations and NGO’s are free to air their support for any cause that they stand for. Workers’ rights cuts across all rights and is part of human rights. It is therefore proper and responsible for all to speak out against any injustice. The Prime Minister would do well to understand better how true democracy works.

The Prime Minister talks about labour laws but fails to understand how the law works. Further, he blames the Union for the walkout when everyone in the country knows, including Management of ATS that the meeting was called by and conducted by ATSET, the 49% shareholder of the Company. Clearly the PM is either mis-informed or simply does not have his facts correct.

It is ironic that the Prime Minister should call on workers to sign a document admitting they did wrong in attending the shareholders meeting when he himself to date has not admitted, let alone in writing that it was wrong and illegal to overthrow an elected government. The workers are not going to implicate themselves just to serve the ego of Riaz Kaiyum and his elder brother Saiyad Kaiyum, who the Prime Minister obviously supports. Personal attacks on the salaries of trade unionists is not going to help when the entire country knows the exorbitant salary, allowances and other perks that the Prime Minister himself enjoys greatly while globe-trotting or trotting around the country campaigning on taxpayers’ funds. It is time for the Prime Minister to look into the mirror first.

We also note that the Prime Minister and others who support Management shed crocodile tears for workers at ATS for not being paid last pay day to support their families. This brings to the fore, why aren’t the same people crying for the thousands that are unemployed or underemployed in this country or for those who earn NEC wages at $60.00 a week or those on Minimum wage of $2.68. How do these people survive for their entire working lives? I do not see the same people shedding tears for them including the Prime Minister and his Government.

We call on the Prime Minister to educate himself on the real issues that gave rise to the Workers Trust calling an emergency meeting and also the long list of grievances that workers have had going back eleven (11) years. He needs to understand that workers need a decent living which they are entitled to and dignity at work. As 49% shareholders, they need to be consulted and represented on the Board of ATS which they have been denied of late by his own Government. They are equally concerned about the mismanagement that has prevailed in the company which ultimately will affect their interest in the Company. They, therefore have every right to raise their concerns as shareholders.

Let me finally assure the Prime Minister that FTUC has nothing to gain from this dispute, but workers at ATS do and they need assistance of FTUC. FTUC will stand by these workers and do whatever is necessary.

 Felix Anthony

National Secretary