The FTUC National Council met on Saturday, the 31st of August to discuss the decision of Government to deny workers the right to assemble and march. Despite complying with all requirements under the law, FTUC has been denied, for the fourth time, the right to peaceful assembly and march. Members of the Council were very concerned at the denial by the authorities of workers’ fundamental rights and condemned the decision not to issue a permit to march. The Council noted that these rights are also enshrined in the Constitution that this Government has imposed on the people of Fiji. Yet the very people who imposed the Constitution and declared a public holiday to celebrate the Constitution are not prepared to abide by it. This hypocrisy must stop. The Council decided that FTUC must continue to insist on Government respecting workers’ rights and the very fundamentals of true democracy. Government must listen to the people even if it is criticism of Government policy or actions.
The Council also discussed the harassment and intimidation by the police both during the termination of 2075 WAF workers and thereafter, the arrest of 29 workers in Lautoka, and the arrest of Union Leaders in Suva, and the charges laid on the National Secretary of FTUC. The Council condemns the actions of the police and calls on the police to stop the unnecessary intimidation of workers. The police activity has been a total waste of time and resources which can be utilized elsewhere for a better cause. Police in riot gear, numerous vehicles with sirens and continuous presence at protest sites have become a joke.
The FTUC has been protesting against the Government’s decision to impose individual contracts, thus denying workers the right to collective bargaining, a breach of ILO Convention 87 and 98. Other issues include the Labor Law Review, Essential Industries review both of which Government undertook to address in 2015. The issue of right to strike, minimum wage, the termination of 2075 WAF workers being the biggest mass termination of workers in Fiji ever, the Vatukoula strike being the longest in the world, all remain pending. The Council also decided to add to the list of issues that need public attention and protest are the recent actions of police which is condemned and is unwarranted in a democratic society and the recent spate of violence in Parliament against 2 Members of Parliament. The ILO just in June at its 100th Centenary Conference adopted Convention 190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. Here we have our so-called leaders perpetrating violence and harassment. This must never be condoned irrespective of what position one holds. Fiji has experienced violence, torture and harassment of citizens over the years and the perpetrators have not faced the law. The FTUC recognizes that despite the people of Fiji generally remaining silent in light of the intimidation that they have faced over the years, it does not mean such acts are acceptable. The rule of law must apply to all equally.
The FTUC in light of these serious violations of workers’ rights has, on Saturday, decided to reapply for another permit to March and protest on the 2nd of November in Suva. The application was lodged on Friday 6th September 2019 to the DCP Southern, FRA and SCC, and we hope that unlike in the past, the application will be dealt with, within 7 days as required by law.