Union delegates at Water Authority of Fiji learn on how to strengthen their role at the workplace

Union delegates from National Union Workers( NUW) working at the Water Authority of Fiji(WAF) greater Suva area offices  gathered for a two hour learning session at  the FTUC HQ yesterday afternoon after work.

16 union representatives gathered to educate themselves on their role at the workplace and the  collective agreement signed by the Union with WAF.

The session was organised by NUW at the request of the members and it focused on issues such as :

  • knowledge about the structure of unions and the global trade union movement,
  • ILO Conventions and how it is linked to our labour laws and terms and conditions at the workplace.
  • Role and responsibilities of a Union Delegate and a Union Member
  • What makes an effective union delegate
  • How to conduct union meetings and negotiations
  • Dispute and  procedures applicable to them as workers.
  • Collective Agreement and ERA

The union reps  raised questions which were clarified by NUW Organiser, Anasa Tuviniwai.

Government continues to trample upon Workers’ Rights – Anthony

National Secretary, FTUC

The Fiji Trades Union Congress is shocked at the level of hypocrisy demonstrated by the Prime Minister in his speech at the UN Nelson Mandela Peace Summit. The Prime Minister claimed he was inspired by the principles on which Mandela lived and pursued his struggle. He spoke of human rights and how Mandela fought to ensure rights of his people and almost attempted to draw a parallel with his atrocities here in Fiji. This is a total demonstration of disrespect for a great soul like Mandela.

Human rights have been at the center of the Trade Union Movement’s struggle in Fiji for the last decade under his Government’s rule. In fact, the whole world including the ILO has called upon his Government to respect human rights including workers’ rights over this period. We cannot ignore the fact that lives have been lost under this Prime Minister’s rule, people have been incarcerated and persecuted for even attempting to stand up and speak, many have been beaten up including trade unionists, the media has been muzzled and manipulated, intimidation of farmers and the population in general has diminished our freedom of speech, imposition of a Constitution that guarantees absolute immunity for all atrocities committed by him and his cohorts and falsely

claiming in the Constitution that ‘We the People of Fiji hereby establish this Constitution”,  imposition of Decrees that violated human rights and workers rights, denial of fundamental freedoms and workers right to strike, protest and the list goes on.

It is ironic that while he was singing praises for respect for human rights, his Government back home denied workers the right to march and protest against his policies on minimum wage, labour law review, individual contracts and denial of collective bargaining by Unions, right to strike and denial of justice to ATS Workers and respect for their rights. These are very fundamental issues for workers. These rights are enshrined in our labour laws and ILO Core Conventions which Government is obligated to respect and indeed undertook to do so on many occasions including signing on to a Tripartite Agreement witnessed by the Director General of ILO. One can only reasonably conclude that the Prime Minister is ignorant of the facts on the ground here in Fiji or is living a lie.

It is time, that the people of Fiji understand that speeches written in the US and edited here by agents of Qorvis, paid for by all citizens of Fiji and read by the Prime Minister are not normally facts but simple propaganda to deceive the world and Fijians. The FTUC calls on all workers at this time to think long and hard about electing a Government that respects workers rights, is committed to decent work and dignity at work for all workers. The task of fighting for these rights can no longer rest on the shoulders of a few trade unionists. It is time for workers to decide their future.

 

The FTUC welcomes the support of many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) in Fiji, religious organisations, Chiefs and the community in general for its support in our struggles. These struggles arise only when we have a government that is insensitive, careless and lacks appreciation and respect for fundamental rights. It is this type of Governments that have to rely on handouts during election time to make up for its shortcomings. There is no dignity in handouts nor is there any accountability, a foundation of good governance.

 

The FTUC is not about to give up on the struggles facing workers in Fiji. This denial of our rights will be reported to the ILO and we need answers as to why we cannot protest and demand for our rights. If those answers cannot be given here, they would have to be given in the international forum. We do not see any reason why this Government has decided to reject our application for a peaceful march and a rally unless they are scared of their own people. The FTUC demands answers from Government on its refusal to grant a permit. We recognize that this is a political decision and not one taken independently by the authorities concerned.

 

 

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

 

Ends.

Media Statement in response to AG’s comments on trade unions and the Fiji Times

Media Statement in response to AG’s comments on trade unions and the Fiji Times

It is almost hilarious that the Attorney General should attempt to attack Fiji Times for misreporting but would remain completely silent when other media organizations openly campaign for his Government and political party. Fiji Sun has a daily dose of Government propaganda, similarly the TV stations do the same but it does not seem to raise the AG’s ire until Fiji Times reports the other side of the story. The ATS saga was one example where apart from the Fiji Times, all other media outlets simply chose to side with ATS and the Government until FTUC filed a complaint with the Media Authority who has to date not responded to the complaint. Where was the AG then about fair reporting.

I told the AG that he will not lecture the trade union movement on how to conduct itself in 2015 before we signed the Tripartite Agreement. He knows nothing about trade unions nor does he have any experience at running one or being a member of one. He can try and pretend to know it all. I remind him again. He must learn to respect Unions and their leaders as they are democratically elected by their membership.

Union leaders do not barge into functions where employers decide a bonus for workers to be photographed for political reasons as the AG always does. We fight a good fight and ensure workers are better off and not to be photographed. The AG controls 10 portfolios in this Government and also attempts to be a trade Union leader at the same time by making promises to workers and handing out bonuses hoping that workers would turn away from Unions. That does not work and will not work.

The AG accuses Trade Unionist of acting for political gain. If fighting for the rights of workers is political, then so be it. Unions will have to this time around lobby political parties that a sympathetic to workers cause. That is a normal function of any trade union. If politics is so bad as the AG makes it out to be, then maybe he needs to explain his involvement in it.

The trade Union movement will not be deterred by naïve comments that the AG spews not to convince workers but to confuse them. We remain focused on our struggle to ensure a decent minimum wage, right to collective bargaining, labour law review, our fundamental Part right to strike and justice for workers at ATS and other companies that exploit worker. We will not give up the fight and the sooner that is understood the better we are.

The AG may also want to explain to the people of Fiji as to why Government has hired Qorvis to conduct Government Public Relations and also campaign for the Fiji First Party. Press releases from Qorvis and Grahame Davis is public secret. Why should the tax payers pay Qorvis to strategize and propaganda for Government and Fiji First Party. The AG must explain if he truly believes in transparency and honest and being Godliness as he advertises.

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

Withdrawal from all tripartite events and committees- FTUC

 

Dear Affiliates and Committees,

The FTUC National Executive Board meeting on Saturday 1st September agreed that FTUC  withdraw from any tripartite activities and events, line Ministry meetings and consultations on Boards / Committees with immediate effect.

This is until such time that  Government enters into meaningful discussions with Unions and FCEF, and completes its agreement signed in Geneva and in Fiji.
FTUC is now actively pursuing with ILO its case.

Please inform your members & staff who may be Committee  or Sub-Committee representatives or part of consultation forums and tripartite  events. This also includes any events organized by other institutions that may be in a tripartite setting.

Do not hesitate to reach out to us should you need further information or clarification.

In solidarity
Felix Anthony
National Secretary
FTUC

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Refusal to use Sukuna Park : Human rights violations continue – FTUC

The Fiji Trades Union Congress has on the last two occasions applied for a permit to march in Suva to bring to Government’s attention the pressing issues that face workers of Fiji. On both those occasions, permit was rejected for no apparent reason. This is clearly a violation of our Human and Trade Union rights. The Fiji Constitution imposed by this Government in Section 18 gives the people of Fiji the right to assemble and protest peacefully. Yet the workers have been denied this right without any reasons given by Government.

In the last instance, Suva City Council had denied workers the use of Sukuna Park to hold a rally and instead had granted Coca Cola to host a promotion. This was despite the fact that FTUC had applied earlier than Coca Cola. It was only after when FTUC insisted, the Park was made available but then the Police simply wrote a one line letter to deny the permit. This is a serious violation of our rights. We are supposed to be a democracy where people are free to protest within the laws. Government must explain why it has chosen to deny workers the right to protest. It’s silence on this matter is unacceptable.

The National Executive Board of the FTUC met on the weekend and evaluated the situation facing workers and noted that critical issues facing workers were not being acted upon by Government. They remain:

  1. Minimum Wage of $4

  2. Imposition of Individual Contracts and denial of Collective Bargaining

  3. Delay in Labour Law Review

  4. Right to Strike

  5. Air Terminal Services Disputes

  6. The decimation of Tripartism.

Attempts have been made to raise these issues at the Employment Relations Advisory Board but have fallen on deaf ears. Workers cannot wait forever for Government to act. The Board felt that these matters are of public interest and greater awareness needs to made on these issues.

We hear Government stating that it has implemented the maternity leave, paternity leave and family care leave effective 1st January 2019. These are matters that FTUC has been negotiating at the ERAB board in the labour law review since 2013. They are not new matters except for the fact that FTUC was seeking to increase the annual leave but Government decided to call it family care leave. Either way they amount to the same. The increase in maternity leave is consistent with the ILO Maternity Protection Convention. However, FTUC believes that to attain decent work which Government has committed itself to doing, all 6 outstanding matters need to be addressed immediately.

The National Executive Committee therefore decided to organize a Workersmarch through Suva and a Rally at Sukuna Park on the 29th of September 2018 at 1030am. Applications for a permit have been made to the Fiji Road Authority, the Suva City Council, the Police Department and the Divisional Commissioner for a permit. Surprisingly, the Suva City Council has written back to advise that the Sukuna Park is now zoned as a recreational park and would therefore not allow a rally unless we sought permission from the Local Government Ministry. Clearly, the Suva City Council prioritizes recreation ahead of Human Rights and people’s Constitutional Rights. There is something drastically wrong with this sort of thinking. We are aware that the Park is being used for other purposes without any problems but SCC believes it not to demonstrate for fundamental rights. FTUC will take this matter up with the SCC and the Ministry. Let us see whether true democracy exists in Fiji.

FTUC invites all workers and their families and those that support the workers’ cause to participate in the march and the rally on the 29th of September 2018.

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

Tripartism is dead- FTUC

 

Tripartism has been decimated by this Government while it continues to attempt to commit to Tripartism internationally. Hoodwinking the international and local community has become a normal standard of behavior of this Government. We have seen workers representatives removed from FNPF, NTPC, FNU, Wages Councils, and have witnessed diminishing roles of workers representatives in ERAB, NEC and National Occupational Health and Safety Board. Clearly Government has retained some Boards as Tripartite to show that a structure exists when in fact it is decimated. The FTUC will not be used to rubber stamp decisions taken by Government that are detrimental to workers and not consistent with the principles of Tripartism. Therefore, effective immediately, the National Executive Committee has decided that FTUC will not participate in any tripartite body until such time this Government decides to engage in a sincere and meaningful manner and abides by the Agreement signed by FTUC, FCEF and Government witnessed by ILO Director General on the Labour Law review and the Essential Industries.

The Government, Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF), the Fiji Trades Union Congress signed a Tripartite Agreement on 25th March 2015 which was witnessed by the Director General of ILO. This Agreement clearly stated that the Labour Law review would be conducted together with any other issues identified by the parties and would be presented to Parliament by the end of October 2015. This was not honoured by Government.

On 29th January 2016, a Joint Implementation Report was signed after the visit of the ILO Tripartite Mission to Fiji. The Government again agreed to review the labour legislation and the Essential Industries imposed to ensure compliance with ILO Core Conventions. It is now 3 years since the first agreement and more than 2 and half years since the second Agreement and we see that this Government has still not complied with its obligation.

The FTUC has also noted that Government has gone ahead without any consultation and imposed a minimum wage, amended the Wages Councils in breach of the ERA, imposed regulations, enacted Accident Compensation Commission Act, amended the Workman’s Compensation Act and continues to prefer consultants to usurp the role of the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB). Yet we hear the Minister for Labour parrot Governments preference to dialogue and tripartite consultations. We wonder whether the Minister understands the principles of Tripartism as against his actions. Clearly his utterances do not reconcile with his actions.

Having considered the current state of play, the Executive Committee of FTUC has decided that no useful purpose would be served in continuing to participate in the boards that still have workers representatives. The FTUC will withdraw its representatives from all boards that exist until such time this Government demonstrates a sincere desire to honour the Agreements it has entered into with FTUC. Tripartism is not about a show but a real desire to work in partnership for the benefit of all and Fiji.

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

Government is anti- union – FTUC

Industrial Relations in Fiji have never been worse with Government leading the charge to weaken and dismantle the Trade Union Movement in the country. Never have we witnessed or experienced such an anti-union Government. The Fiji Trades Union Congress is determined to ensure that workers in Fiji continue to be able to exercise their rights which are enshrined in the ILO Core Conventions, UN Declaration on Human Rights, the Fiji Constitution and the Employment Relations Act. These rights must not only be written into law but workers must be able to exercise them.

We have witnessed the imposition of individual contracts on civil servants, teachers, nurses, workers in Government owned entities and banks. These contracts are in violation of our labour laws and international Conventions which this Government has ratified and creates insecurity of employment. Workers today feel intimidated by these contracts which can be revoked by Government or their Employer with one months’ notice. Assurances by the Attorney General that these contracts will be renewed is no relief to workers and is hollow and brings into question the purpose of these contracts if they are imposed only to be renewed. The Fiji Trades Union Congress is convinced that these contracts are simply to weaken the Trade Unions by excluding them from Collective Bargaining when it comes to terms and conditions of employment of workers exactly what the Essential Industries Decree was supposed to do. This is just another round-about way that this Government is attempting to deny workers their right to Collective Bargaining and Freedom of Association.

Workers are forced to sign these contracts if they wish to be employed. Government’s denials that this is not  the case is simply untrue. Teachers, nurses and other civil servants only know too well that if they did not sign onto the contracts determined by the Government they would be victimized and terminated from employment. These individual contracts have become a condition of employment.

The FTUC would like to point out that the law places the choice between a collective agreement and an individual contract on the worker and not on the employer as is the case today. Part 16 of the Employment Relations Act requires the Employer to negotiate a Collective Agreement in good faith. Section 20(4) of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution gives Trade Unions the Right to Bargain Collectively. Section 20 also assures workers the right to fair working conditions and humane treatment. Government has also given assurances on achieving “Decent Work” for all workers. This must not be a mere slogan but a reality which calls for respect for Core ILO Conventions and a National Minimum Living Wage. This Government has also put its signature to the UN Social Development Goals (SDGs). Goal number 8  is about achieving decent work. This is clearly not what this Government is doing and in fact moving in the opposite direction.

There is no point in painting the country with slogans on truth, honesty and Godliness when the Government is out to simply deceive and hoodwink its people. It is time for Government to demonstrate honesty and respect the fundamental rights of all workers and their families.

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

“Labour Minister misleads again” : FTUC

Labour Minister Misleads again

The Minister for Labour has been going around blowing his own trumpet and trying to put a new spin on Industrial Relations in Fiji. Clearly his version of how workers’ rights are protected and enhanced by his Government is not the reality that workers have either seen or experienced.

He is right in claiming that workers’ rights are protected in the Employment Relations Act and the Constitution. What he fails to understand is that no matter how good the written law is, it is absolutely useless to the worker if he or she is unable to exercise them. The Minister makes no mention of the fact that Government being the biggest employer in the country openly flouts these laws. The Minister might want to explain how workers are able to exercise their rights to collective bargaining when the Government makes it a condition of employment for workers to enter into individual fix- term contracts. These workers have been forced to sign these contracts that go against the very grain of collective bargaining and is in violation of the very laws that he trumpets as workers’ rights. The choice to enter into an individual contract or a Collective Agreement is that of the worker and not the employer. The laws are clear in this respect and so is ILO Convention 98 on the Right to Collective Bargaining. Government and Employers must respect the choice workers make. Government must set a good example for the private sector but we are witnessing quite the opposite.

The Minister talks about a fairer workplace forgetting that all Government employees contracts stipulate that it can be terminated for no cause at one month’s notice. How is

this fair? How is it fair when his own Ministry does not enforce the labour laws in this country?. One only has to look at the working conditions in our supermarkets or garment factories. Conditions there border in bonded labour. No one has the right to speak or even raise an issue for fear of being terminated. Workers are scared of joining unions in these industries for fear of being terminated. Many of our young workers are being exploited under the National Employment Scheme at $60 a week with no other conditions. How is it fair when workers have no right to conduct secret ballot for strike action, let alone the Right to Strike. The Minister might also like to know that our Dispute Settling machinery is moving at a snail’s pace. Workers have to wait months and in many cases years to have matters resolved. These are some matters that are of public knowledge and here we have a Minister for Labour who believes every thing is hunky dory.

The Minister claims that Tripartism is alive and well and goes on to try and paint a rosy picture of tripartite consultations. The fact is, that Tripartism has been decimated by this Government. The Minister may want to explain why there is no longer any Tripartism in FNPF, FNU, TPAF, ATS, Wages Councils and now the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB). The Minister knows too well that he has unilaterally imposed the minimum wage, as he was told to do, without any consideration of the consultation that was needed to be conducted with the social partners. He has imposed regulations and amendments to ERA without any consultations with ERAB and has amended the Wages Councils unilaterally to reduce benefits to workers and yet trumpets Tripartism and how important these consultative processes are.

The Paternity Leave, Maternity leave and Family leave were matters that the Unions have pushed for many years. In fact they are part of the Labour Law Review which both the FCEF and FTUC are insisting that Government act upon. The Unions had asked to increase the annual leave provisions in the course of discussions at the ERAB sub-committee years ago. The Government instead called it family leave. So there are no new ideas which the Government or this Minister has implemented other than to cannibalize the tripartite machinery.

The FTUC does not believe that this Minister for Labour is in touch with reality. He simply follows instructions handed down to him. This Government is only good at lecturing but very short on action. We call on the Minister to explain why his Government has not to date honored the Agreement signed with the FCEF and FTUC and witnessed by the Director General of ILO or the Joint Implementation agreement. We call on the Minister to make good all his pronouncements or stop misleading the workers and the public.

Felix Anthony

FTUC

Government targets teachers about unions

Fiji Times 

AQELA SUSU

Fiji Trades Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony and Fijian Teachers Union general secretary Agni Deo Singh. Picture: FT FILE

TRADE unionists have hit back at the Education Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, on a circular issued to teachers nationwide last Sunday claiming that union bosses were spreading misinformation to teachers throughout the country.

Fiji Trades Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony said FTUC was not happy with the approach taken by the Government against trade unions.

Fijian Teachers Union general secretary Agni Deo Singh said what AG claimed in the circular were “lies” and they would be formally responding to the issue tomorrow, along with the Fijian Teachers Association.

However, in a statement earlier released by FTA, the association’s president Netani Druavesi said there were a wide range of issues that needed union consultations and this included the introduction of contracts for teachers.

Read detailed reports on this issue in tomorrow’s edition (Tuesday, September 4, 2018) of The Fiji Times and in our e-Edition.