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The National Secretary of Fiji Trades Union Congress, Mr. Felix Anthony, was taken into police custody last night at 10:30pm, June 27th from his home in Lautoka. Officials in plain clothes and in uniform approached the family last evening when they were gathered after dinner on the terrace, catching up after his return from Geneva early this week. The police informed Mr Anthony that these were pending inquiries and that these orders had come from Suva. The family was informed that he was being taken to Suva and asked to pack an overnight bag.
Upon our own investigation after the police escorted him away in a GR registered vehicle, we found out that he had been taken to Lautoka Courthouse cell-block. Our lawyer then could meet with him and they spent the night under police observation. At 2am, the lawyer left and was informed to return the next morning. The Lautoka police were replaced by those that arrived from Suva and at 430am, Mr Anthony was removed by these police and then driven to Suva. Mr Anthony was held at the Criminal Investigations Department Head Quarters to be questioned further on the Water Authority of Fiji termination issue. We were later informed that a charge had been laid by the Office of the DPP for alleged breach of the Public Order Act 1969, “in relation to expiry of employment contracts of WAF workers which tended to create or foster public anxiety”.
Mr Anthony was presented at the Magistrates Court around midday before Magistrate Waleen George and released on bail. He has been directed to appear before the Court again on August 15th.
On 27th June, Minister for Employment Productivity and Industrial Relations, Praveen Bala, stated that they had not interfered in any way with trade unions or conduct of their activities. This is contrary to the current situation that we are faced with.
We URGENTLY call upon the government to:
- Immediately stop all harassment, intimidation and anti-union behavior against trade union officials
- Drop the irrational charges sanctioned against Mr Anthony alleging that he created fear and anxiety by citing that Water Authority of Fiji workers had been terminated
- Honour the Agreement signed in Geneva in 2015 and the Joint Implementation Report in 2016, adopt fully the Committee on Application of Standards rulings made recently on 21st June in Geneva, and the February report of Committee of Experts on Application of Conventions and Recommendations on Fiji.
- Stop utilising the Public Order Act 1969 to suppress our fundamental rights of freedom of expression, peaceful freedom of assembly, and other human and trade union rights of citizens, particularly of workers
- Ensure that the police including the Criminal Investigations Department refrain from interfering in the conduct of trade union activities or making judgements in employment related matters.
- Ensure that Fiji at all times complies with the Conventions ratified and particularly the Core Conventions of the ILO.
We call upon:
- the ILO to take note of this development in view of the deadline set for Fiji in November and the Direct Contacts Mission be considered at the earliest possible opportunity.
- the international community, like minded organisations and the global trade union movement to intensify their campaign on Fiji, opposing the continued and unacceptable behavior that violates workers’ and trade union rights.
We record our appreciation to the global trade union movement for their initiatives in applying pressure on the government to end such acts of gross violations.
BREAKING NEWS: 10:30pm 27th June 2019
The National Secretary of FTUC Is being arrested from his home now 1030pm in front of family members by a team of police and will be driven to Suva tonight. We are trying to ensure he is accompanied by a lawyer and also trying to verify if he is being taken to Suva as informed to family or being held at a police station in the west.
11:00pm Update – Taken to Lautoka courthouse cell block for overnight observation.
Fiji has now until November to meet the requirements outlined in the tripartite agreement Fiji had inked in March 2015.
And to top it further the Government has been requested to accept a Direct Contacts Mission to Fiji prior to the next (2020) ILC.
Read here the text of the Ruling made in Geneva:
Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87)
The Committee took note of the information provided by the Government representative and the discussion that followed. The Committee observed serious allegations concerning the violation of basic civil liberties, including arrests, detentions and assaults and restrictions of freedom of association. The Committee noted with regret the Government`s failure to complete the process under the Joint Implementation Report.
Taking into account the discussion, the Committee called upon the Government to:
■ refrain from interfering in the designation of the representatives of the social partners on tripartite bodies;
■ reconvene the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) without delay in order to start a legislative reform process;
■ complete without further delay the full legislative reform process as agreed under the JIR, the Joint Implementation Report;
■ refrain from anti-union practices, including arrests, detentions, violence, intimidation and harassment and interference;
■ ensure that workers’ and employers’ organizations are able to exercise their rights to freedom of association, freedom of assembly and speech without undue interference by the public authorities; and
■ ensure that normal judicial procedures and due process are guaranteed to workers’ and employers’ organizations and their members.
The Committee requests that the Government report on progress made towards the implementation of the Joint Implementation Report in consultation with the social partners by November 2019.
The Committee called on the Government to accept a direct contacts mission to assess progress made before the 109th Session of the International Labour Conference.
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CONFERENCE
108th Session, Geneva, June 2019
Standard-Setting Committee: Violence and Harassment in the World of Work
Instruments to be submitted for adoption by the Conference
The new Convention on Violence and Harassment at the workplace comes as a Convention with a Recommendation, as per the Resolutions adopted at the Conference. This is the text that is to be submitted to the Conference Plenary and subject to vote for adoption on Friday 20th June.
Text of the Convention concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work
click here:text of the new convention
The National Secretary FTUC, Mr Felix Anthony, addressed the Committee of Application of Standards on the Fiji Case Tuesday Fiji Time. Here’s is the full text of his speech to the Committee.
” 1 May is a very special day for workers the world over. That is the day where workers celebrate struggles over the decades. In Fiji, 1 May this year, some 2,075 workers were summarily terminated; 29 workers were arrested for simply being on union property for unlawful assembly and jailed for two days and charged by police; trade union leaders who dared to speak up for workers were arrested and jailed for two days; union offices were raided by police and staff and members were threatened and intimidated by police in riot gear. This summarizes the state of our democracy and the atmosphere in which trade unions and workers work in Fiji.
Government’s response in defence of its actions, it attempts to rely on the Public Order Amendment Decree which was imposed by the military Government and violates human and trade union rights. In March 2015, the tripartite partners signed a JIR in the presence of the Director General of the ILO. The Government of Fiji agreed to address all of the 33 issues identified by the Committee of Experts in 2015, which were bundled together under the labour law review process. This JIR was signed only the night before the Governing Body meeting was due to take place on the Fiji case and averted the decision for a Commission of Inquiry into Fiji under article 26 of the ILO Constitution. While the Government addressed some of the issues, labour law review and the essential services listing remained outstanding. Since then, no progress has been made despite a further contacts mission in 2016 where a second JIR was signed. The same commitments were given by the Government of Fiji.
On the contrary, the Government unilaterally continued to impose the open merit system to assess workers’ performance and made it a condition of employment for workers to sign these individual contracts, more particularly for civil servants, government-owned entities and all those industries that Government had redefined as essential services, including banks, airlines and local government workers. This contract periods were anywhere from three months to three years. In most government-owned entities, blue collar workers were only given three-month contracts which would be renewed every so often after a week’s break to deny workers their minimum entitlements. This effectively meant that while the Essential National Industries Decree was repealed, the same conditions intended by the Decree continued, thus denying workers the freedom of association and unions the right to collective bargaining and reduce union density and coverage. Existing collective agreements that were in existence at the time of the imposition of the Decree and which were made invalid by the Decree have not been reinstated despite the Committee of Experts’ request.
The Government’s explanation that they have been replaced by new negotiated collective agreements is simply not true. There has been no negotiations on collective bargaining except for the timber industry. We do not see any valid reason why the collective agreements that existed prior to the Decree cannot be reinstated. They were negotiated and agreed to after all.
We are dealing with issues that the Committee dealt with for over seven years. On every occasion, we have had the Government’s undertaking that they would completely respect workers’ rights and address the violations. Yet little has been done and in fact the situation has actually worsened. The Government’s inaction and disregard for the decisions of the Committee has amounted to wasting the valuable time of the Committee. We would like to see the Government of Fiji behave more responsibly and take seriously its commitments to the Committee.
I would like to address some of the issues that have not been implemented. The labour law review which is part of the JIR which the Government has not honoured till today. This was to address 31 issues that the 2015 and 2016 Committee of Experts had asked the Government to act upon and to ensure compliance with all core Conventions. The violations are again listed in the most recent report of the Committee of Experts. The list of essential industries was also part of the JIR. The parties had agreed to act upon this.
What we find is that it is only now, just before this meeting, that the Government has actually requested technical assistance from the ILO to address this issue. The report cites the Public Order Amendment Decree and had urged the Government consistently to address violations. This Act gives sweeping powers to the police and the Commissioner of Police to deny any form of protest or assembly in either public or private places and to arrest and charge any persons. The Act defines terrorism as any person who attempts or incites any action that would either damage or potentially damage the economy or cause unrest. The penalty for this is life imprisonment. Because of this, unions cannot undertake any strike or protest action.
In this respect, more recently the FTUC had made four applications to organize peaceful marches in protest against the violation of workers’ rights. These have all been denied by the police without providing any reasons.
More recently, on 30 April, the General Secretary of the Nurses’ Union and the General Secretary of the Fijian Teachers Association and a union organizer were arrested and detained for 48 hours. On 1 May, I was arrested and detained for 48 hours and questioned about the protests and marches that the FTUC had planned. On the same day, 29 other members of the National Union of Workers who were terminated by the Water Authority of Fiji were arrested on union property for alleged unlawful assembly and charged under the Public Order Amendment Act. Strict bail conditions were imposed including a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and a travel ban.
On 1 May, the workers of the Water Authority were summarily terminated with the employer citing that the contracts had come to an end. The police intervened and guarded the entrance to the workplace and disallowed workers from entering the premises.
On 1 and 2 May, the National Union of Workers and FTUC premises were raided by the police, and documents and electronic equipment, including files, computers and mobile phones were confiscated. My computer and phone have not been returned to me until today. The report also questions the powers of the Registrar of Trade Unions. This has been well covered by the spokesperson for the Workers.
On the Political Parties Decree, I also do not see the need for me to elaborate on that other than to state that a trade union officer is not a public office. Trade unions are membership-based organizations and it is the membership that actually pays for the running of the trade union and it is not paid by the Government at all. We do not believe that trade unions should be classified as public offices, quite apart from the fact that the denial of our fundamental rights and not partaking in the political process of the country.
The Committee of Experts has consistently called on the Government to allow prison officers to join or form unions. Currently, prison officers are not allowed to exercise their freedom of association. The Government stubbornly continues to refuse prison officers this right. As to the long-standing 26 year-old strike by Vatukoula goldmines, we recall that the Government had presented an elaborate plan for the mine-workers in 2016 before the Committee. I note that the Government’s current position has changed totally where they claim no responsibility or liability for mineworkers at all.
Workers in Fiji work under a cloud of fear. Their jobs are insecure, unionists are unable to carry out their legitimate activities. Tripartism in Fiji is dead and this includes all the tripartite bodies where the workers had traditionally been represented. I would just like to say that we note that the Government’s response is that the appointments are made according to law. What the Government has omitted to tell the Committee is that the laws that they refer to were amended by this very Government more recently where they have excluded the workers’ and the employers’ representatives.
We note that the Government has referred to recent meetings which were initiated by the ILO Suva Office to explore the way forward for the social partners. The partners and the ILO had agreed that these meetings would be informal and that no party would refer to these meetings or publicize them. Obviously, the Government has not kept its part of the deal, as usual. This now puts the social partners in a more difficult situation for further discussions.
Lastly, the Government of Fiji continually attempts to demonize the trade union movement in Fiji and its officers. Most recently, the Prime Minister and the Attorney General publicly called unions irrelevant. They have removed unions from tripartite bodies and imposed precarious and insecure working conditions that violate workers and trade union and human rights. Yet they come to the Committee and applaud decent work, social dialogue and tripartism. This hypocrisy has to stop.”
Other workers’ reps speeches will be uploaded soon.
As per the further information required, the FTUC lodged an update report to the ITUC Human And Trade Union Rights Department and the International Labour Standards Department of the ILO.
Full Complaint update – Ms. Sharan Burrow -FTUC Report 16 May 2019
Attachments to Report :
The response by government was put under intense scrutiny this Monday morning Fiji Time in Geneva when the Fiji workers delegate and supporting union leaders from the global trade union movement spoke at the Committee of Application of Standards.
The National Secretary and Workers Delegate to the ILC, Mr Felix Anthony , addressed the CAS. Each speaker, as per procedures of the Conference, was allowed 3 minutes each to highlight the Fiji case with updated information.
Fiji was cited at least three times for violations and or failures:
- For violation of Convention 87 the Right to Organise from amongst 187 member states, it was one of the 25 countries, cited alongside countries like Tahjikshtan, Kazakhstan, and Zimbabwe.
- For failure to submit information to the Committee of Experts on which workers groups and employer groups in their country were Reports and information shared with. This was a breach lasting three years. Fiji was cited with Rwanda.
- Fiji was cited again to supply the information to the Committee on Application of Standards concerning the above failure. Fiji was listed with Rwanda, as marked above.
The Fiji government submitted its response on the concerns raised by the FTUC to the ILC as attached here:
The Report states that ” Felix Anthony has been able to carry out trade union activities without interference from government” which is very misleading and not correct.
The report continues to state that the freedom of assembly is enshrined in the Public Order Amendment Decree and Act and applies to all citizens of the country.
The response does not address the issues raised in the FTUC complaint where workers, members and trade union officials are prohibited from peaceful assembly.
Click on the link below for the update on the violations the unions and workers were subjected to in the last few months in Fiji.
The FTUC Women’s Committee is calling on members to participate in the campaign to promote and raise awareness on the need for an ILO Convention and Recommendation on Gender based Violence and Harassment at the workplace.
The initial proposal for a Standard on violence was to give effect to the resolution concerning gender equality at the heart of decent work. This resolution was adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 98th Session (2009), calling for the prohibition of gender-based violence in the workplace and for policies, programmes, legislation and other measures to be implemented to prevent it. The proposal was put forth seven times to the Governing Body and was considered at its 316th, 317th, 319th, 320th, 322nd, 323rd and 325th Sessions.
A background report was prepared for the tripartite Meeting of Experts on Violence against Women and Men in the World of Work, outlining the scope, definitions, prevalence and impact of violence and harassment, and highlighting some responses undertaken at the international, regional and domestic levels. The Meeting of Experts took place on 3–6 October 2016, producing a set of conclusions. The FTUC contributed to the two reports for the Expert meetings by responding to two questionnaires on the issue of gender based violence in Fiji.
The Women’s Committee campaign objectives are as follows:
1. Show support the Recommendation for the ILO Convention on Gender based violence
2. Join the international trade union movement to highlight and promote the campaign
3. Incorporate our local themes around the suppression of workers rights in Fiji with different colors for each day.
The campaign will build momentum for workers in the country to know about human and trade union rights and those that are being suppressed.
Affiliates are requested to advise their members to participate in this campaign by adorning the following colors during the week and sharing it on social media as per the themes and promote it in their various organizations.
For next weeks starting 17th June, 2019, the colors are:
The Committee looks forward to your active participation and promotion of this campaign.