FTU calls for 20% salary increase across the board for teachers

The Fiji Teachers Union is calling for a 20% across the board salary increase for teachers.

As the 2017/2018 National Budget will be announced tonight, FTU’s General Secretary Agni Deo Singh says apart from this, all Early Childhood teachers should be put on normal Primary School teacher level salary and not on hourly wages.

Singh adds there are teachers who have served for more than 10 years but are on the same salary level with those who have taught for two or three years.

He says based on their service, there should be a staggered increase in salary for teachers who have given long and loyal service to the Ministry of Education.

The Union is also calling for the removal of contractual appointments for teachers and Singh says teachers should be put on a tenure to ensure they have job security which will enable them to get home loans.

The Ministry of Education got $432.2 million in the 2016/2017 National Budget where it was also announced that the base salaries will also increase for teachers.

It was announced last year that base salary for primary school teachers will be $16,610 while the base salary for secondary school teachers will be $23,411.

Source:  Fiji Village Newsroom

ILO ready to face world of work challenges resulting from crisis, labour migration and green transition

GENEVA (ILO News) – The 106th International Labour Conference  (ILC) closed following two weeks of deliberations on key world of work issues, including the promotion of peace and stability in countries emerging from conflict, strengthening labour migration governance and greening the economy.

The International Labour Conference adopted a new landmark standard, the Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience Recommendation, 2017 (No. 205) , which updates the guidance of an earlier ILO Recommendation adopted in 1944 to provide responses to contemporary crisis situations arising from conflicts and disasters. It also widens the focus of the standard on reconstruction and recovery to include prevention and preparedness.

The new standard provides a unique normative framework focusing on world of work related measures to prevent and respond to the devastating effects of conflicts and disasters on economies and societies, paying special attention to vulnerable population groups, such as children, young people, women and displaced people.

The Conference also adopted a Resolution which requests the ILO Director-General to take a lead in strengthening partnerships at the international level to promote the new standard. The adoption of a new Recommendation on Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience – is very significant at several levels,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, in his closing remarks to the ILC.

“Significant because it shows, unequivocally, that the ILO is ready and able to update its standards, making them robust and relevant. And significant because it is a vital answer from the world of work to have millions of people, affected by crisis, disaster, or displacement. Not only are we listening to them, we are acting for them and acting with them.”

The head of the ILO also reminded delegates of the ILO’s responsibilities in respect of labour migration. He referred to the “widespread governance deficits which allow space for abuse, and too frequently a deterioration of public attitudes and political discourse towards migrants and migration.” He called on the international community “to make no concessions to attitudes which are offensive to the ILO’s values and standards and to provide real guidance and leadership in the construction of governance systems (…) which allow the realization of the benefits of migration for all concerned.”

Ryder lauded the “valuable debate” and “many expressions of support for the Paris Agreement ”, reminding his audience that there was not a “linear transition from brown to green”. He insisted on the value of social dialogue between governments and the social partners in this transition: “Tripartism does deliver the goods.”

Women at Work

The Conference held a World of Work Summit on Women at Work  on 15 June to discuss how to shape a better future for women at work, and what is needed to overcome obstacles for women in the world of work. The same day, three women Presidents highlighted concrete action they have taken to advance gender equality in the world of work: Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca (Malta) , Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (Mauritius)  and Bidya Devi Bhandar (Nepal) .

Another President, Dr Tabaré Vázquez (Uruguay) , addressed the ILO’s world parliament of labour on the opening day.

This year’s World Day Against Child Labour  on 12 June focussed on the impact of conflicts and disasters on child labour.

Delegates also discussed a report of the Director-General drawing the world’s attention to the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories.

The 106th International Labour Conference adopted a programme and budget for the 2018-19 biennium of US$784 million which in nominal terms is some 2 per cent lower than for 2016-17.

The Conference also decided to abrogate four and withdraw two international labour standards.

A record 6,000 accredited delegates from 187 ILO member States attended the 106th ILC. The Conference was presided over by Luis Ernesto Carles, Minister of Labour from Panama.

Source: ILO Newsroom

ILO Governing Body elects Luc Cortebeeck as new chairperson

ILO Governing Body elects Luc Cortebeeck as new chairperson.

GENEVA (ILO News) – The Governing Body  of the International Labour Organization (ILO) elected Luc Cortebeeck, President of the Workers’ Group and Vice-President of the ILO Governing Body since 2011, as Chairperson for 2017-18.

Luc Cortebeeck replaces Dr. Ulrich Seidenberger, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations Office at Geneva, who served as Governing Body Chairperson since June 2016.

Luc Cortebeeck looks back at a long career within the trade union movement, both in Belgium and internationally. He is also Honorary President of the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions of Belgium (ACV-CSC).

H.E. Luis Enrique Chávez Basagoitia, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Peru to the International Organizations in Geneva, was elected as Government Vice-chairperson. Mthunzi Mdwaba, Founder and CEO of TZoro IBC, Chairman of the University of the Western Cape, Chairman of Productivity SA, was elected as Employer Vice-chairperson.

Catelene Passchier, until recently vice president of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV), was appointed as Worker spokesperson .

The Chairperson and two-vice chairpersons will serve as Officers of the Governing Body during the period 2017-18.

The 330th Session of the Governing Body also considered a range of other business, including a report of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association .

The members of the Governing Body were elected for a three-year term (2017-2020) during the 106th Session (5-16 June 2017) of the International Labour Conference .

The Governing Body is the Executive Body of the International Labour Office (the Office is the secretariat of the Organization). It meets three times a year, in March, June and November, and takes decisions on ILO policy, the agenda of the International Labour Conference, and the draft Programme and Budget of the Organization for submission to the Conference.

It is composed of 56 titular members (28 Governments, 14 Employers and 14 Workers) and 66 deputy members (28 Governments, 19 Employers and 19 Workers). Ten of the titular government seats are permanently held by States of chief industrial importance (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States). The other Government members, and the worker and employer members, are elected by the Conference every three years.

Source:  ILO Newsroom

NZCTU – Economy not meeting the needs of the working people

Figures out today from Statistics New Zealand showing our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are proof that the economy is not working as it needs to nor is it performing as Treasury had predicted.

“Just three weeks ago Treasury forecast in the Budget that GDP would increase by 1.1 percent in the three months to March, not the 0.5 percent increase that GDP that actually happened. Even worse, GDP is falling after accounting for our growing population. This is simply not good enough. Working people need fairer incomes. Where is the strategy from Government to ensure better wage increases?” CTU President Richard Wagstaff asked.

GDP per capita fell in both the last two quarters. The CTU estimates that productivity (GDP per hour worked) fell 1.3 percent in the last year compared to the year before.

“These figures show that the economy isn’t working as it should.  None of this is good for working people and their future wages and incomes.”

“The Government should stop trying to plug the income gaps by tax reductions which rob us of quality public services like health, housing and education that working people need.  It is time to fix our wages system so working people get a fair share of the income that their work produces.”

“If the Government doesn’t show some real leadership on this issue, working people will have gone through a whole economic cycle without seeing the rise in their standards of living which they deserve,” Wagstaff said.

Source:  NZCTU News

ILC 2017: Closing speech by Marie Clarke Walker, Worker Vice President of the Conference

Marie Clarke Walker, Worker Vice President of the 106th International Labour Conference
President,
Vice Presidents,
Director General,
Distinguished delegates, 

 

It has been a great pleasure and honour for me to be elected Vice-President of the 106thSession of the International Labour Conference. I would like to express my sincere thanks to the worker delegates for the trust they have placed in me.

I would also like to congratulate the President of the Conference, Mr Luis Ernesto Carles Rudy (Panama), the Government Vice-President Ms Saja S. Majali (Jordan) and the Employer Vice-President Mr José María Lacasa Aso (Spain), for their excellent and fruitful cooperation.

Mr President, let me start with expressing some concern. I recall the words of the Director General in his opening statement last week, on the importance and the relevance of the ILO Constitution for today’s world of work. It is indeed crucial to recall our values especially in these difficult social and economic times with many challenges surrounding us. It is therefore disheartening to see how difficult some of the discussions have been at this conference, on very fundamental values and rights that have been questioned or opposed in the various committees.

Despite this, I welcome the fact that the spirit of consensus prevailed and all the committees were able to adopt good conclusions. I congratulate the Conference on the successful adoption of a new instrument that reaffirms the principle of universal and lasting peace based on social justice and social dialogue.

I would also like to welcome the adoption of the Programme and Budget for 2018-2019 which will enable this organization to carry out the work we have all asked them to do during this conference.

Allow me now to briefly address the various subjects discussed at our conference this year.

Let me start with the work of the Committee on the Application of Standards.

This year, the Committee on the Application of Standards was again able to examine the application of international labour standards in 24 countries. The Committee discussed five so-called double-footnoted cases in relation to which the Committee of Experts requested governments to supply full particulars to the Conference. These countries include Ecuador on Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association, El Salvador on Convention No. 144 on Tripartite Consultation, Malaysia on Convention No. 19 on the Equality of Treatment (Accident Compensation), Poland on Convention No. 29 on Forced Labour and the Ukraine on Convention No. 81/129 on Labour Inspection. A consensual list of 19 additional countries was agreed upon, including fundamental, governance and technical conventions. The Workers’ Group regrets that a number of countries with serious violations of fundamental rights were not examined by the Committee. These countries include Brazil, Colombia, Belarus, Honduras, Indonesia and the Philippines. Our Group welcomes clear and straightforward conclusions adopted by the Committee in order to provide recommendations to Governments in relation to their obligations under the relevant Conventions ratified. This year’s conclusions include a high-level tripartite mission to Kazakhstan, a high-level mission to Mauritania and direct contacts missions to Bahrain, Egypt and Algeria.

Let me now turn to the Committee on the transition from War to Peace, which has ably finalised its work on the Recommendation No.71. The workers’ group arrived here with the firm determination to achieve a Recommendation focused on Employment and Decent Work in the transition from war to peace, disasters, and building resilience.

We wanted a standard that clearly reflects the Decent Work pillars of social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work. It was further important to recognize the importance of public services and the role of the public sector; the need for just transition measures towards an ecologically sustainable economy as an element of responses to disasters and building resilience; progress for due diligence in global supply chains operating in countries in situations of crisis or in recovery; and to provide concrete measures to respect the fundamental principles and rights at work for refugees as well as for migrants and other forcibly displaced persons within countries as well as across borders.

We have achieved much of that. We are convinced that the new instrument will serve the cause of employment and decent work in the transition from war to peace, disasters, and in strengthening resilience. But of course it will do so only if we dedicate ourselves to giving it life and pertinence.

We further welcome the conclusions of the Committee on the second recurrent discussion on fundamental principles and rights at work. We congratulate the committee not only for its speedy work, much more for its spirit of consensus. The Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work are at the heart of the organization. They are the human rights of workers. It is therefore reassuring to know that constituents renew their commitment and that there was a strong consensus on the way to make better progress in their full respect, promotion and realization.

The conclusions outline a clear direction for the road ahead. There is commitment to work towards universal ratification of all core labour standards by the Centenary in 2019. In the campaign for ratification, but also for action tackling gaps in implementation, we welcome the clear focus on freedom of association and collective bargaining as enabling rights. The 2030 Agenda offers an important opportunity for the ILO to develop a plan of action to support projects around SDG target 8.8, which aims to protect labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers. Indeed, this target can only be reached through tripartism, social dialogue, freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
We are facing serious challenges, but with an ILO that will scale up its work on policy coherence and partnerships with and outreach to economic institutions, capacity building of constituents as well as research, analysis and data to guide future standard setting and policy development, we are confident to face the challenges of the future of work, with freedom of association and through tripartism, social dialogue and collective bargaining, in the same spirit of consensus.

Last but not least, the Committee on Labour Migration, despite difficult and long discussions, was able to achieve a good result and adopt an important set of conclusions. They reaffirm an important and leadership role for the ILO in the area of labour migration, based on tripartism and our normative framework, not only in its’ future work but also in its’ role towards the development of the Global Compact for Migration. The relevance of the migration conventions was reaffirmed, both for protecting the rights of migrant workers as well as for contributing to good labour migration governance.

The conclusions identified key areas that warrant special attention. Three of the areas I would like to mention in particular are the need to address much more effectively abuses around temporary migration, irregular migration and fair recruitment. Protection of migrant workers, their right to organise and especially the need to guarantee equal treatment for migrant workers were important achievements.

The conclusions further include priorities for action by the ILO in all these areas in particular more action on the awareness raising of the migration conventions; an assessment of decent work impacts of temporary migration schemes; and an assessment of the impact of the recently adopted guidelines for fair recruitment. We therefore think these conclusions strengthen the ILO’s mandate for a fair labour migration.

The work of these committees is the manifestation of the founding objectives of the ILO and its commitment to social justice. Its unique tripartite structure gives equal voice to workers, employers and governments in advancing internationally recognized human and labour rights in pursuit of its founding mission that social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace.

The ILO must continue social dialogue and promote tripartitism to not only set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men but to also assist in their implementation.

My report would not be complete without mentioning the World of Work. This year the ILC World of Work Summit was dedicated to the theme of “A better future for Women at Work”. Workers welcomed the interactive nature of the summit and its engagement of ILO stakeholders and constituents in discussing how to ensure a better future for women at work, looking at work life balance, the care economy, violence and harassment as a barrier to decent work and the gender pay gap. A key part of the discussion also included the role men must play in the process. The Summit also welcomed three women Presidents who spoke about how they had advanced the gender equality agenda.

Finally let me congratulate all the new Governing Body members on their election and wish them all success in their important work over the next three years.

Mr. President, let me conclude by thanking the Director General, the ILO staff and the interpreters, who all worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this Conference, as well as my worker colleagues who did an excellent job in the various committees.

I thank you for your attention and wish you all a safe journey back home.

Source:  ILO ACTRAV Media Centre

ITUC Global Rights Index 2017: Violence and repression of workers on the rise

The number of countries experiencing physical violence and threats against workers has risen by 10 percent in just one year, according to the annual ITUC Global Rights Index.  Attacks on union members have been documented in fifty-nine countries, fueling growing anxiety about jobs and wages.

The report shows that corporate interests are being put ahead of the interests of working people in the global economy, with 60 per cent of countries excluding whole categories of workers from labour law.

“Denying workers protection under labour laws creates a hidden workforce, where governments and companies refuse to take responsibility, especially for migrant workers, domestic workers and those on short term contracts. In too many countries, fundamental democratic rights are being undermined by corporate interests,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary.

The ITUC Global Rights Index 2017 ranks 139 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected in law and in practice.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Eighty-four countries exclude groups of workers from labour law.
  • Over three quarters of countries deny some or all workers their right to strike.
  • Over three quarters of countries deny some or all workers collective bargaining.
  • Out of 139 countries surveyed, 50 deny or constrain free speech and freedom of assembly.
  • The number of countries in which workers are exposed to physical violence and threats increased by 10 per cent (from 52 to 59 countries) and include Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia and Ukraine.
  • Unionists were murdered in 11 countries, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Mauritania, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines and Venezuela.

“We need to look no further than these shocking figures to understand why economic inequality is the highest in modern history. Working people are being denied the basic rights through which they can organise and collectively bargain for a fair share. This, along with growing constraints on freedom of speech, is driving populism and threatening democracy itself,” said Sharan Burrow.

The report ranks the ten worst countries for workers’ rights in 2017 as Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Philippines, South Korea and Kazakhstan have joined the ten-worst ranking for the first time this year.

Once again the Middle East and North Africa was the worst region for treatment of workers, with the Kafala system in the Gulf still enslaving millions of people. The absolute denial of basic workers’ rights remained in place in Saudi Arabia. In countries such as Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, conflict and breakdown of the rule of law means workers have no guarantee of labour rights. In conflict-torn Yemen, 650,000 public sector workers have not been paid for more than eight months, while some four million private sector jobs have been destroyed, including in the operations of multinationals Total, G4S and DNO, leaving their families destitute. The continued occupation of Palestine also means that workers there are denied their rights and the chance to find decent jobs.

Conditions in Africa have deteriorated, with Benin, Nigeria and Zimbabwe being the worst performing countries – including many cases of workers suspended or dismissed for taking legitimate strike action.

The International Trade Union Confederation has been collecting data on violations of workers’ rights to trade union membership and collective bargaining around the world for more than 30 years. This is the fourth year the ITUC has presented its findings through the Global Rights Index, putting a unique and comprehensive spotlight on how government laws and business practices have deteriorated or improved in the last 12 months.

In South Korea, Han Sang-gyun, President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, has been imprisoned since 2015 for organising public demonstrations during the candlelight revolution, to prevent the now deposed Park government from passing anti-worker labour laws.

Trade union leaders in Kazakhstan were arrested merely because they called for strike action. In the Philippines, the climate of violence and impunity, which has proliferated under President Duterte, had a profound impact on workers’ rights.

Working conditions also worsened in other countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Myanmar.

Argentina has seen a spike in violence and repression by the state and private security forces – in one case, 80 workers were injured during a stoppage for better pay and conditions. The build up of the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil saw a significant increase in labour exploitation, and the dismantling of labour legislation by the new Brazilian government last year caused a sharp decline of labour standards. In Ecuador, union leaders were forbidden from speaking out and their offices were ransacked and occupied by the government. Problems in the garment sector in Myanmar persist, with long working hours, low pay and poor working conditions being exacerbated by serious flaws in the labour legislation that make it extremely difficult for unions to register.

“The challenge is for governments to accept their responsibility to govern for people, not just in the interests of big business, by making laws that respect international labour standards. Even under the most oppressive circumstances, workers will continue to organise unions, and it’s time that politicians stood up for them instead of trampling on their rights,” said Sharan Burrow.

The 2017 ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries from one to five according to 97 indicators, with an overall score placing countries in one to five rankings.

1.  Irregular violations of rights: 12 countries including Germany and Uruguay
2. Repeated violations of rights: 21 countries including Japan and South Africa
3. Regular violations of rights: 26 countries including Chile and Poland
4. Systematic violations of rights: 34 countries including Paraguay and Zambia
5. No guarantee of rights: 35 countries including Egypt and the Philippines
5+ No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law: 11 countries including Burundi, Palestine and Syria.

Read the report: ITUC Global Rights Index 2017
Download the ITUC Global Rights Index map
Download the ITUC Global Rights Index Infographic – Violation of workers’ rights
Download the ITUC Global Rights Index Infographic – Ten worst countries in the world for working people

Source:  ITUC Newsroom

In conflicts and disasters, protect children from child labour

Globally over 1.5 billion people live in countries that are affected by conflict, violence and fragility. At the same time, around 200 million people are affected by disasters every year. A third of them are children. A significant proportion of the 168 million children engaged in child labour live in areas affected by conflict and disaster. The World Day Against Child Labour this year will focus on the impact of conflicts and disasters on child labour.

Conflicts and disasters have a devastating impact on people’s lives. They kill, maim, injure, force people to flee their homes, destroy livelihoods, push people into poverty and starvation and trap people in situations where their basic human rights are violated. Children are often the first to suffer as schools are destroyed and basic services are disrupted. Many children are internally displaced or become refugees in other countries, and are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and child labour. Ultimately, millions of children are pushed into child labour by conflicts and disasters.

As the world strives to achieve the elimination of child labour by 2025, on this World Day Against Child Labour, let’s join forces to end child labour in areas affected by conflict and disaster!

Source:  ILO Newsroom

World Day Against Child Labour 2017 – “In conflicts and disasters, protect children from child labour”

Today, on World Day against Child Labour, 2017 the emphasis is on the difficulty of children held in conflicts and disasters, who need to be protected from the risk of Child Labour.

Children Fiji like most other Asia Pacific countries are vulnerable to matters of Child Labour and Child abuse. The first comprehensive efforts to eliminate Child Labour in the Pacific was made possible through the EU project, ILO Tackling Child Labour through Education (TACKLE), from 2008 until 2013.  The Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) and its affiliate Fiji Teachers Union (FTU), was part of the Child Labour Project Advisory Committee including its tripartite partners.

Key achievements of TACKLE project has been establishment of the first Child Labour Unit in the Pacific, adoption of Child labour inspection systems and processes, regulation of the hazardous child labour list, withdrawal and prevention of children from child labour, information and database on Child labour, extensive capacity building, awareness and advocacy,  and resource and knowledge sharing platform created.

Child Welfare Decree of 2009, was also legislated mandating all professionals (teachers, medical personnel and police officer), to report all cases of Child abuse, neglect and child labour to the Department of Social Welfare and education policies is available on Child Protection.

Fiji has ratified fundamental conventions, C138 – Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) in 2003 and C182 – Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182) in 2002.

In recent years, a number of homes and schools have been destroyed in areas affected by conflict and disaster.  This has led to increase in the number of school dropouts, Child labour and worst forms of child labour. Children have been abused, exposed to Child labour and worst forms in their homes, where protection is most vital.  These children become victims and vulnerable to the worst forms of child labour.

Examples of worst form of child labour In Fiji, are engagement in street work, including commercial sexual exploitation.

In Fiji 787 child abuse cases has been recorded by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation in the past 9 months and this has been the highest within the time frame.  Our children have the rights to protection for their personal development, including protection from labour under certain circumstances, which may be damageable for their health, security, morality and development. Yet, around the world, there are still 168 million children in child labour, eighty-five million of them are engaged in hazardous work.

FTUC is working closely with the Fiji Teachers Union and its tripartite partners to continue advocating its fight to eliminate Child labour.

FTUC urges to its affiliates, colleagues and friends to join us in marking World Day against Child Labour!

FTUC Youth Wing at the Fiji ILO/YEC Networking event

FTUC Youth Wing Representatives at the ILO/YEC Networking Event

 

 

 

 

 

 

Representing the FTUC Youth Committee were Bro. Rajnesh Lingam, Sis. Ajeshni Lal, Sis. Daveena Prasad, Sis. Latchmi Prasad, Ms. Nadita Kumar of the Fiji Teachers Union, Sis. Latileta Gaga, Bro Jolame Vosa of the National Union of Factory & Commercial Workers, Sis. Melia Vuki, National Union of Catering and Hospitality and Tourism Industries Employees, Sis. Luse Madigibuli, Fiji Maritime Workers Association and Sis. Moushmi Naicker, Fiji Trades Union Congress.

Bro. Rajnesh Lingam, presenting on FTUC Youth Committee major achievements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also present at the event were delegates from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Assistant Director-General and Regional Director, Ms Nishimoto Tomoko, Senior Specialist, Employer’s Activities (ACT/EMP), Ms. Miaw Tiang Tang and Senior Specialist in Workers’ Activities, Ms Jotika Gounder from the ILO, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

Guests and Delegates at the ILO/YEC Networking Event

The main aim of this event is to create and maintain networks and link between the YEC and FTUC Youth Committee for future activities and enhance communication.

Bro. Edward Bernard, Snr Programme Assistant, ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries, Suva facilitated the event and welcomed the invited guests, ILO Delegates, YEC members and the FTUC Youth Committee.

Ms. Jotika spoke on ACTRAV assistance to the Youth Committees in the Pacific while Ms. Tang spoke on the employer’s assistance and contribution.

Sis. Jotika Sharma, Senior Specialist in Workers’ Activities speaking on ACTRAV assistance.

Representatives from the Young Entrepreneurs Council made presentation on its objectives, membership, activities and major achievements.  Bro. Rajnesh Lingam, President of the FTUC Youth Committee also presented on the Committee’s objectives, membership, activities and major achievements.

The event concluded with response from ILO Regional Director, Ms Nishimoto Tomoko thanked the YEC and FTUC Youth Committee for their presentations and expressed her gratification towards their achievements.  Her message to the participants emphasised on the need to enhance communication and network to develop and maintain future social partners.

The FTUC Youth Committee presented parting gifts to the Regional Director, Ms. Nishimoto.

Ms Nishimoto presenting her speech to conclude the ILO/EYC event

FTU comments on Teachers’ Salary

Mr Agni Deo Singh, FTU General Secretary

Minister for Education, Doctor Mahendra Reddy’s statement [Fiji Live 6/6/17] that “teachers are happy now because their salaries have been raised” is grossly misleading.  The Minister is further reported saying that “he has not received any complaints of teachers being paid less than what they should be.” The last increase in salaries for the entire Civil Service was before the 2014 National Elections.  As a consequence of this, the entry point salaries were pegged at $16,610.00 for Certificate holders, $18,056.00 for Diploma, $21,438.00 for Degree without teacher training and $23,411.00 Degree with Teacher Training.

The Union categorically states that there has been no salary increase for teachers.  In fact, a Job Evaluation Exercise is underway to address the salary issue of the Civil Servants.  For the Minister to say that teachers have received salary increase whilst the Review is still in process, in undermining the work of the Civil Service Ministry and the Consultants.

The Union has written and raised issues regarding teachers’ salaries on numerous occasions with the Ministry of Education.

In 2015, all new recruits, who were trained teachers, were put on a $12,360.00 salary.  This was corrected after the Union raised the issue at different levels. This was corrected at the beginning of 2016.

However, the 2016 recruits were all lumped together at the Certificate level salary of $16,610.00.

No other sectors of the Civil Service ever had the entry point salary reduced, unheard of anywhere else.  Ministry of Education, we believe, could win a place in the Guiness Book of Records!

The Union raised its concern again as the Diploma Salary was $18,056.00 and Graduate Salary was $21,438.00.

In 2017, the Ministry recruited teachers who have completed their Programmes but are yet to officially graduate. These teachers are put on a salary of $12,360.00.

They are doing full time teaching and they are performing the duties in the school like any other teacher and yet are paid a much reduced salary.  The Ministry is in breach of ERP 2007 Part 9 Section 74 [b] “ensuring equal rates of remuneration for work of equal value for all workers.”

The Union has filed a Dispute with the Ministry of Labour seeking redress for the above.

There has been no rise in teachers’ salary [except for some kindergarten teachers many months ago].   How can the teachers be happy when they are overworked and underpaid?

Agni Deo Singh,  General Secretary , Fiji Teachers Union.

Workshop on ILO ACTRAV/FTUC Follow up National Training Workshop in Disputes and Grievances – Advocacy and Management of IR Cases

On 29 May 2017, the Fiji Trades Union Congress launched its new phase of the Organizing Project to support workers’ organizations in Fiji and to build their capacities through Organising and Collective Bargaining.

The FTUC National President, Bro Daniel Urai opened the workshop by identifying issues and challenges faced by workers when addressing disputes and grievances within the Ministry’s framework. These are backlog of cases and resource constraints of the Ministry, Knowledge gap, Victimisation of union membership, Individual contracts; and the lack of cooperation from management on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention and Collective Bargaining.

In addition, Guest Speaker Bro Satoshi Sasaki, Decent Work Specialist and Officer-In-Charge for the ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries, Suva observed that existence of laws does not necessary mean to secure the realization of the rights of the people.  He stated that that   is why   workers needed the legal information to fight for their rights. Bro Sasaki reaffirmed the ILO support towards the implementation of the MOU signed between the tripartite partners to review the ERP in 2016 and that ILO is ready to provide technical expertise to make this possible.

Bro. Sasaki, Sis Jotika Sharma Senior Specialist in Workers Activities, Bangkok and members of the FTUC Executive Board launched the new phase of the project with ILO ACTRAV with a cake cutting ceremony.

The objectives of the two (2) day training workshop were to:

  • build on skills of trade union leaders in advocacy and representation in Tribunal and Employment Court;
  • Empower trade union leaders on the employment dispute resolution mechanisms under ERP; and
  • Maintain network of labour lawyers to assist in compiling and presenting workers grievances and labour disputes at arbitration and court.

Speakers and officials attended the workshop from the Ministry of Employment Productivity & Industrial Relations, Fiji Employers & Commerce Federation and the Legal Fraternity who spoke on subjects relating to their respective professions and addressing the title of the workshop.  28 participants attended from within the FTUC affiliation represented by Union Organisers, IR Officers, FTUC Executives and members from the FTUC Women and Youth committee.

Sister Jotika Sharma, Senior Specialist in Workers Activities, Bangkok shared and provided an overview on the expectations and outcomes on  FTUC & ACTRAV – ILO collaboration in Promoting Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining to Strengthen Workers Organizations (FTUC) in Fiji.

Bro. Arun Prasad, General Secretary of the National Union of Trade Union Workers and IR Officer for Fiji Teachers Union and Bro. Rouhit Karan Singh, President of the Fiji Local Government Officers, shared their experience on utilizing the Dispute/Grievance Resolution Systems.

Mr. Mathew Young, Legal practitioner and Managing Partner for Axis Pacific Lawyers, Fiji presented session on how to prepare effective cases from a legal perspective.

Mr. Kameli Batiweti, representative from the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation, and Chairperson of the Human Resources Council presented a session on Good Faith Bargaining and Expectations of Social Partners. His presentation was broken down in to four parts that were Objects, Good Faith, Bargaining and Collective Agreement. The participants have to ask questions and general comments were raised in terms of employer’s views for the proposed National Minimum Wage of $2.68/hr and had discussions with the presenter with individual and organizational comments.

Mr. Aman Ravindra Singh, Barrister & Solicitor for Aman Ravindra Singh Lawyers, demonstrated his session on Effective Advocacy and Legal Tools for effective Advocacy. He illustrated on effective advocacy, better skills, case preparation, and case presentation, stronger and effective advocate and legal tools for effective advocacy, legal research, case law, submission research, and writing legal interpretation.

Mr. Noel Tofinga, IR Consultant, Fiji Commence and Employers Federation, delivered his session on Labour Law Reform/Amendments /ERP – Examining the Right to Strike. expertise conducted his session with a group exercise. The participants were put in groups and asked to refer and identify to parts and sections of the ERP some of the sections referred to were Section 4 Definition of “DISPUTE” (Definition of “Employment Dispute”, Section 166 (Registering and enforceability of CA), Section 175 & Section 191BN (Mandate to strike).

Last but not the least Mr. Tomasi Keni, Mediator, Ministry of Employment Productivity and Industrial Relations spoke on the process the Dispute Resolution Processes under the non- essential services.  The focus of the presentation from the ministry was Part 19 of the ERA, which talked about employment Grievance; here the four D’s was Dismissal, Disadvantaged Duress and Sexual Harassment.  The participants questions in terms of the Individual Grievance and worker process, transparency of the labour officers, enforcement of law, why there is inconsistency in awards and the duration taken to make decision at mediation services.

The workshop marked a new era in revamping the network of IR practitioners within the trade union circle by developing recommendations through the process of identifying challenges, listing provisions and that needs strengthening for effective grievance and dispute resolution process at ministerial level.  Participants also looked into new provisions that could be included in the next review of the ERP (ERA).

Finally, an action plan was developed listing activities of best practice in IR advocacy, role of the National Centre and the role of the Individual unions.

Some key recommendations are as follows:

  • The need for more Social dialogue in promoting IR advocacy
  • More exposure and practical training is need in terms of representation at Mediation Services, Employment Relations Tribunal and Employment Court.
  • Follow up training on IR advocacy
  • Training on Court proceeding tools and techniques
  • The FTUC to develop resources material for example Mini ERP guide, Newsletters
  • Create and develop and maintain a database for Disputes and Grievances
  • Unions to share database of success stories/ awards with the National Center
  • To maintain the network of IR Practitioners that was developed in this training and in the training conducted by Ms. Christine Nathan, Regional Education Specialist, ILO Bangkok Office and Ms. Ramapriya Gopalakrishnan, High Court Advocate of Madras, India in and this follow up training was needed to revamp the network that was developed.

 

FTUC Launches National Trade Union Quiz

The Fiji Trades Union Congress Youth and Women’s Committee launched its Inter Union Quiz Night at the FTUC Conference Room on 26 May 2017.  The quiz night was facilitated by Bro. Rajnesh Lingam, President of the FTUC Youth Committee who welcomed members, affiliates, guests and executives to the launch and to the first round of the inter-union quiz for the central division.

Bro. Felix Anthony, FTUC National Secretary delivered a powerful message on youth empowerment and the need for the young leaders to grow within the trade union movement.  He also emphasized on the need to educate the upcoming leaders on labour law and strengths of the trade union.  In addition, he expressed his appreciation on the turn-out by members and guests for the evening in support of the event.

Also invited to the launch was our guest speakers Mr Govind Singh, General Secretary of Council of Pacific Education (COPE) and Mrs Basundra Kumar of Fiji National University and former Assistant General Secretary of Fiji Teachers Union spoke on young people’s growth including capitalizing on every opportunity to educate and develop their skills with confidence.

A call was made for affiliates to register their teams from Central Division. Five teams that registered were from the Fiji Maritime Workers Association, National Union of Workers, National Union of Factory and Commercial Workers, Fiji Teachers Union and National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism Industries Employees.

Then two (2) teams selected to participate in the initial round for the quiz competition in the Central, which was:

  • Team Unity – representing National Union of Factory and Commercial Workers
  • Fiji Teachers Union

The quiz sessions were based on current affairs, parts and sections of the ERP, International Labour Calendar, structure and history of FTUC, ILO Conventions and general knowledge questions for participants.  Team Unity came out “winners” of the central division first round.  The wining team received a Trophy and cash prize for the team. The runner up team also received a trophy and cash prize for the team.

Sister Ajeshni Lal, President of FTUC Women’s Committee, concluded the event with a vote of thanks and announced the opening to the evening social gathering.

The FTUC Youth & Women’s Committee and the secretariat are thankful for the following unions who provided their support to the organizing committee and the successful launch for the event:-

  • National Union of Factory and Commercial Workers
  • National Union of Workers
  • Fiji Teachers Union
  • Association of University of the South Pacific Staff
  • Fiji Public Service Association
  • National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism Industries Employees
  • Communication, Mining and General Workers Union
  • The US Embassy representative also made a donation towards the event

Approximately 80 union representatives and well wishes were present at this event.

 

Tokyo 2020 and the ILO agree unique partnership to promote Decent Work

The Organizing Committee and the UN Agency for the world of work will sign an agreement to promote socially responsible labour practices among the delivery partners of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Guy Ryder, Director-General of the ILO (L), with Toshiro Muto, Tokyo 2020 CEO (/ Uta MUKUO)

TOKYO (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee (Tokyo 2020) will sign a unique partnership agreement aimed at advancing “decent work” through socially responsible labour practices amongst the Games’ delivery partners.

The milestone partnership, announced during a visit to Japan by Guy Ryder, the ILO’s Director-General, will be formalized by a Memorandum of Understanding.

This constitutes Tokyo 2020’s first partnership with a UN organization, and the first time that the ILO officially partners with an Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee. The partnership will encourage enterprises to play a positive role in promoting decent work through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Socially responsible labour practices will be promoted in all delivery partners of the Games, taking guidance from the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles covering multinational enterprises and social policy and will include technical seminars and symposiums on CSR practices.

Promoting jobs and enterprise development, guaranteeing rights at work, extending social protection and promoting social dialogue are the four pillars of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda , a key driver of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development .

“This agreement is much to the credit of the Organizing Committee, who reached out to the ILO. On this occasion, Tokyo 2020, we have the chance to move from ad hoc informal relationships to a formal and systemic cooperation, and this marks a qualitative step forward. It parallels the on-going dialogue that the ILO has with the International Olympic Committee. This agreement can set the standards for future practices in the Olympic Movement,” Guy Ryder said.

“Since 2014, the ILO has been supportive of Tokyo 2020, providing insights and technical assistance, and we are delighted to further deepen our collaboration through this unique partnership, which reinforces Tokyo 2020’s commitment to sustainability,” Tokyo 2020 CEO, Toshiro Muto said.

The IOC Sustainability Strategy focuses particularly on the “workforce” – the protection of employees, volunteers and contractors engaged by the Olympic Movement. Its provisions require Organising Committees to ensure that working environments are safe and healthy, and to take all necessary measures to ensure that working conditions on all projects carried out in conjunction with the organization of the Olympic Games comply with internationally-recognized standards and with all international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the host country.

Source:  ILO-ACTRAV

Link:http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_553633/lang–en/index.htm

World Day for Safety & Health at Work

Far Right, FTUC Assistant National Secretary, Mr Rouhit Karan Singh

April 28 marks a historical and a day of significance for all the workers throughout the world and FTUC is proud to be associated with this year’s celebrations to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work. Being one of the tripartite partners bestowed with the responsibility of ensuring and promoting safe work practices and standards, it has become very important to work towards achieving this year’s theme.

The theme is “Optimize the Collection and Use of OSH Data”.

The ILO’s campaign for the 2017 World Day for Safety and Health at Work focuses on the critical need for countries to improve their capacity to collect and utilize reliable occupational safety and health (OSH) data.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted on September 25, 2015 encompasses a global plan of action with specific targets to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. With its adoption, the capacity to collect and utilize reliable OSH data has also become indispensable for countries to fulfill their commitment to implement and report on some of the agenda’s 17 sustainable
Development goals and its targets
.
Every year there are more than 330 million work-related accidents worldwide, even counting just those resulting in an absence of more than 4 days. A total of 2.4 million people die every year as a result of unsafe or unhealthy workplace conditions. Worldwide, this causes a loss of 4 per cent of global GDP. In the last four years, Fiji recorded five- thousand six- hundred and seventy- four work related injuries and thirty workplace related deaths.

With these global and local trends on work-related diseases and its impact and as such the subject cannot be dealt in isolation but needs genuine commitment of the Government, Employers and the Workers.

Speech by FTUC Assistant National Secretary, Mr Rouhit Karan Singh

Sustainable Development Goal 8, in particular, provides for the promotion of “inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” and it focuses on the “protection of labour rights and promotion of safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious (dangerous) employment.”

Occupational safety and health (OSH) is a cross-disciplinary area concerned with protecting the safety, health and welfare of people engaged in work or employment. The goals of occupational safety and health programs include fostering a safe and healthy work environment. OSH may also protect co-workers, family members, employers, customers, and many others who might be affected by the workplace environment.

It’s time for us to strategize and take urgent steps collectively to reinforce our actions and redouble our efforts to and healthy workplaces for all workers.

The workers in Fiji are blessed especially those who are employed in the formal sector. The Health and Safety at Work 1996 protects all the workers.

To comply, FTUC urges all the workplace in Fiji to create safe and healthy environment with other enabling and supportive structures so that all stakeholders are at ease whilst performing their duties which has provisions, roles and responsibilities of all tripartite partners to fulfill. The law recognizes trade union movement’s to represent their members. This is the entry point for us to protect our workers’ rights.

Having said that, there are Regulations made to effectively comply with the governing laws. This Regulation gives regulatory requirements for the establishment of Health and Safety Committee where an employer has more than 20 workers.

1. OHSF 1-Workplace Injury and Disease Notification Form
This OHSF1 Form is a simple designed form which notifies the Ministry of Employment of any accident which occurs at workplace with Employer and workers detail along with the details of injury or disease.[Section 26]

2. OHSF 2- Record of Accident and Other Matters
This OHSF-2 Form is kept by the Employer which records the personal data of injurd person and the details of the accident and disease.[Section 28]

The trade unions worry is those workers who are in informal economy such as fishing, diving, agriculture, self-employed; women’s and those who are least represented and are vulnerable. The question is that whether we have enough coverage and mechanisms to collect data on OSH injuries and accidents from these sectors!!!

Fiji being one of ILO convention ratifying member States has to establish mechanisms to collect and utilize reliable OSH data for prevention purposes. The coverage and scope of collection is to see that all workers fall under one system of reporting and data is received by the Ministry.

At this juncture I on behalf of FTUC welcome the move by the Government to carryout audit in mining as the workers are at risk which has led to accidents AND EVEN DEATH RECENTLY.

These ILO instruments recognize that the collection and utilization of reliable OSH data are 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 international, national and enterprise levels.

OSH data provide the basis for setting priorities and measuring progress.

WHY OPTIMIZE THE COLLECTION AND USE OF DATA?

1. All over the world it is widely accepted that there is a huge economic benefit to be gained from improved safety and health in the workplace and a reduction in occupational accidents and diseases. In order to achieve this benefit, there is a need for a better knowledge of the true situation of safety and health in the workplace at the enterprise, industry and national levels in order to take the right decisions. Effective risk assessment and control at the workplace require accurate and reliable accident and disease data.

2. In many countries-national systems for reporting, data collection and analysis are often very poor and do not reflect the real safety and health situation in the country because accidents and diseases are reported more or less by chance.

In addition, we urge that the Ministry of Employment and Industrial Relations to effectively and efficiently implement the provisions of legislations such as ERP 2007, Health and Safety Act 1996 and subsidiary legislations, Workman Compensation Act for betterment of all workers in Fiji.

We workers of Fiji have lot of faith and trust in the Ministry as it is the focal point to record accidents, collect data and rightly utilize it. A cost benefit analysis will show why data collection is important.

Today whilst we discuss this important subject, I hope that progress is made on a joint approach towards an appropriate and applicable OHS management system that changes the mindset of all tripartite partners in realizing the importance of “optimizing the collection and use of OSH data” and how to manage with it.

But how can we improve this situation? Prevention is the key. Effective prevention driven by all stakeholders reduces occupational accidents and diseases, improves product quality and the economic performance of enterprises and national economies. Effective prevention makes companies more successful and saves lives. This is why, all over the world, prevention is becoming more of a focus for governments, political decision makers, economic leaders and managers, social partners and all stakeholders of society.

Being on NOHSAB gives me satisfaction to contribute for the betterment of the workers in Fiji. The trade union calls on governments, employers, workers and their organizations to collaborate in the development and implementation of national policies and effective strategies aimed at optimizing the collection and use of OSH data.

Finally, I wish to emphasize again that proper implementation and monitoring of workplace standards is crucial. The Labour Inspectors are to be visible. Your inspection once 3 months’ in a workplace with little advice on improvements will make a lot of difference and save many workers from health and safety hazards.

Effective control is the best way to ensure effective implementation. This is the only way forward.

I wish all of you a fruitful OHS Day and hope you will execute your roles and responsibilities with due diligence to help us optimizing the collection and Use of OSH Data and ensure better and higher productivity. We need a collaborative approach and I’m very optimistic that together we can make our workplace a healthier and safer one. I urge you to achieve the maximum through the day’s participation and take back the knowledge as advocates to protect your fellow workers and the organization for productive and safe Fiji.

The trade union wants to achieve that “Every worker has the right to return from work unharmed every day…”

FTUC Assistant National Secretary:  Rouhit Karan Singh

Bill On Parliamentary Powers and Privileges

Submissions by the Fiji Public Service Association

1.0  PREAMBLE

1.1  This submission is made by the Fiji Public Service Association (FPSA), a registered Trade Union, established in 1943, and operating in the Fiji Public Sector for eight decades.   Our membership consists of the bulk of permanent serving staff in the general, administrative, medical, accounting and technical sector cadres, including support staff, of the Public Service including statutory authorities and other government entities. The contents herein reflect their views and legitimate expectations on issues of freedom of expression and human rights.  It is their sincere desire to ensure and uphold freedom of expression or write and express whatever they want within the confines of the Bill of Rights.  It is also noted that Bill of Rights already have derogations and the current Bill will worsen the situation.

1.2  Response to Parliament: Our submission is in response to a Call by Parliament inviting interested parties to submit their considered thoughts on the contents of the Bill.  As an inherently involved social partner in the industrial and economic fields of the nation, we are qualified to aspire to make our submissions to the Standing Committee. It is the Association’s view that the contents of Bill No.28 of 2016 covers several fundamental and core issues of freedom of speech and human rights and issues, such as: violations relating to rights to express views and opinion freely including on parliament and elected members of parliament who cannot be above criticism as they are put there by the people including our members

2.0  GENERAL RESTRICTIONS

2.1   The initiation of the above Bill in Parliament strikes at the very heart of our freedom of speech (whatever is left of it) or expression and the provisions of the Media Industry Decree which is an anathema on freedom of speech.  This Bill removes the rights and freedom of expression of all citizens of this Country specified in Section 24-1 of the Bill. Section 24 restricts people’s rights to freedom of speech, expression & publication.  Every citizen has the right to make critical analysis of their elected representatives and demand accountability, transparency and good governance.  To put simply this Bill is proposed to create a law to silence the very people that puts MPs in Parliament and above all, as taxpers, pay for their salary and perks.  It is nothing more than intimidating people and denying them their basic right to “check and balance’ the performance of their representatives who are elected to represent them.  This is the basic principles of good governance.  It is clear that the very reason for the Bill is that Parliamentarians once elected will be “untouchable” and they would be free from any criticism.  People will now start thinking why bother going to the polls to elect an official who will not be accountable to the very people who put them there.  Furthermore, and ironically, the elected parliamentarians will have the power to sue citizens to whom they are supposed to be accountable.  If the law will remove our freedom and rights than we need to know what is the intention of this proposed Bill?  One would not be wrong in thinking that the inevitable consequences of such wide powers contained in the Bill would be the derogation from the jurisdiction and authority of Courts.  We seriously consider that it is necessary to strengthen the capacity for democratization and the accountability of the government.  These are important in themselves, but are also necessary to give a sense of security and confidence in the fairness of the system to each individual. Democracy is not merely majority rule.  Contemporary study of democracy shows that it is connected with social justice, impartial governance, human rights and the rule of law.

3.0  BREACH OF INTERNATIONAL COVENTIONS AND 2013 FIJI CONSTITUTION

3.1  The Amnesty International (AI) has pointed out that the Bill is about the curtailment of the rights and freedom of expression which would give power to Parliament and politicians to place them above the law and make them unaccountable for their actions and what they say.

3.2  The AI states that “the right to freedom of expression includes the right to critique government and challenge government policies.  Citizens should be allowed to raise important issues in the public interest and hold their representatives accountable.”

3.3  The Citizens Constitution Forum (CCF) has called for the removal of section 24 of the Bill.  It told the Parliamentary Standing Committee that it breached core international conventions on International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights  and Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and is inconsistent with other provisions of the 2013 Constitution including Sections 18, 72 and 73 and infringed on people’s right to freedom of speech, expression or publication and freedom of assembly as guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.

4.0      DEMOCRACY AND RIGHTS

4.1   The concept and contents of rights has helped to establish the relationship between democracy and rights.  Some rights are sine quo non for the operation of democracy viz the right to vote, to stand for elections and to form political parties etc.  Rights also demonstrate to us the substance of democracy.  They remind us that democracy is more than the rule of the majority of parliamentarians.  Democracy is meaningless unless it is underpinned by the protection against arbitrariness, oppression and the denial of equality.  In this country we have been too long concerned with the procedural  aspects of democracy to the exclusion of the values that underlie it.  It is a fallacy to suppose that all rights are based on individual selfishness.  Even the more individual oriented rights are meant to guard the dignity of the person.

4.2  Fiji is a free society according to the Fiji Constitution and the FPSA vigorously protests that the Bill No.28 will impose serious restrictions on freedom of expression and as such the provisions which impinge on the freedom of speech should not be allowed to see the light of the day.

5.0      FIJI’S OBLIGATION AS A MEMBER OF THE UNITED NATIONS

5.1     Universal Obligations: Fiji Government is a member of the United Nations Organisation and many other specialized international agencies. Our nation has ratified numerous conventions and protocols to observe the universal and uniform standards in many areas of human endeavour.  As such, the Govt has an outright obligation to ensure that its undertakings are in support and conformity with international practices of human rights.

5.2     Parliamentary Oversight:  In light of the principles discussed above, it is incumbent on the Fiji authorities to always ensure that the international protocols and standards are applied, implemented and upheld in the Fiji national scene.  There are existing laws on defamation which is sufficient to address the issues raised in the Bill regarding criticism of members of Parliament or laws to deal with defaming and demeaning the sanctity of parliament.  The Association’s view is that Bill No.28 of 2016 is totally unwarranted and there is no need to make freedom of speech a criminal offence.  Defamation is primarily a matter of civil law between private parties or individuals.  This being so, it makes perfect sense to stay clear of criminal remedies or sanctions particularly where individual rights are at stake.  International experience suggests that attempts to use criminal sanctions on issues of human rights and freedom of expression ultimately brings both the law and the judicial system into disrepute and this would be the last thing that any government with conscience would contemplate risking to demean their standing in the international arena.

6.0    CONCLUSION

6.1  The foregoing submission comprises our views, comments and suggestions to the Standing Committee for the purposes of making our position known to the Parliament of Fiji.  It is obvious that there have been serious, and at times disastrous, shortcomings when a Bill or any legislation is brought by the government to stifle the voice of the people of this country.

6.2   The government has an obligation to propose laws that must be consistent with the international obligations and conventions and in this area the trade unions know that the government has a dismal record in observing ILO Core Conventions to which the government is a signatory.

The Association strongly condemns Bill No.28 of 2016 particularly the section that proposes to gag the voices of the citizens of this country and their rights to freedom of speech.  The Bill, in fact, flies in the face of functioning of a parliamentary democracy.  It also notes that Fiji does not have a liberal democracy and the current Bill No.28 will further take the country towards anarchy and shutting out any opposing views which would strike at the very heart of freedom of speech.

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

Linkhttp://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=398321

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

Linkhttp://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=398293

“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

Fair competition can protect workers in globalized world

Director of ILO’s Bureau for Workers’ Activities, Maria Helena André, shares insights about her first visit to Viet Nam in March 2017.  During her working trip, she had the opportunity to meet leaders of the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour as well as the Commission of External Affairs and Commission of People’s Mobilization of the Party Central Committee.

Director of ILO’s Bureau for Workers’ Activities, Maria Helena André

Why did you choose Viet Nam to visit at this particular moment?

The world’s geo-political situation has changed a lot with so much uncertainty that I felt the importance to witness the situation of Viet Nam today.

Obviously the country was ready to make moves in terms of the international labour standards, including freedom of association and collective bargaining, which is important to further promote social justice in Viet Nam.  But how will those moves continue in the new political situation, particularly after the US with its new administration has decided to no longer stand behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

To me this visit was very interesting as it helped me understand that the political willingness of the trade union in Viet Nam is still there to move towards an alignment with the international labour standards. I appreciate that.

What was your biggest impression after meeting various stakeholders in workers’ activities?

My biggest impression was that Viet Nam is at a crossroads.

It was quite clear that Viet Nam aspires to be part of the international community and understands the obligations attached to it.

Externally, there remains the pressure of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and Viet Nam.  The social aspect of the “Trade and Sustainable Development” chapter of the FTA is important.  It promotes workers’ rights and conditions in the framework of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, including freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, and the elimination of forced labour, child labour and discrimination.

But more importantly, it is also the time for Viet Nam’s internal dynamism to kick-start and drive the change.

So I am curious to see what will be the follow up and how Viet Nam is going to handle this in terms of priority, timing and political consensus which is necessary in this society to move forward on such an important direction.

You just mentioned the fact that Viet Nam is now deepening it economic integration through various free trade deals which often include labour provisions. How could Vietnamese workers benefit from this?

It is very important that Vietnamese workers are entitled to the same rights in terms of equality of treatment, freedom of association and bargaining collectively in a free manner like workers in the majority of other countries in the world. It is not only the right but also the protection they have.

But more significantly, that shows we are working on the basis of fair competition, which holds high importance when a country wants to promote its trade agenda.

Fair competition means the rights of workers could not be sold at a cheap price. In my view, this is probably the core of the discussion at this stage. And this is what workers would have to win to be better protected, especially in a globalized world where we all know the fundamental principles and rights of workers are not always respected at the forefront of economic interests.

As you said, the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) is planning to carry out a comprehensive internal reform. What do you think are the breakthrough elements in their blueprint? And what might be the weaknesses which may have to be further improved?

The existence of the reform plan itself is a very positive aspect.

Trade union organizations do not always realize the need to reform and the need to change their policies and practices both at national and international levels. Trade unions are usually much more vocal and better in addressing their demands to others than in analysing how they can better serve their members.

So VCGL has understood that in a globalized world and an open market economy, trade is at the core of economic development. If they also want to promote social development on an equal footing with economic development, they will need to be operational, efficient, and effective. They will need to put worker’s interests and rights at the forefront of their policies and find the best way to do that because the promotion of worker’s protection is fundamental in a well-functioning market economy.

This can be achieved by negotiating the terms and conditions for workers to be able to operate in good working conditions, with good wages, occupational safety and health protection, work-life balance and so on through collective bargaining.

I think VGCL has clearly got this. However it is not easy to put such a big plan at the forefront because it touches upon all the layers of the trade union representation and organizations in this country. And in my experience, I know it is not easy for unions to change.

The capacity of VGCL to promote this reform with a genuine involvement of workers and unions at different levels is the only key for success.

I believe the various measures of union renovation will be implemented in a fair manner. But there will have to be the transition from the current to the new model of the mandate. It is very important to do this with the trade union representatives, leaders but also with the workers themselves.

It is a big challenge for VGCL but I am positive that they are well aware of this.

Do you have any relevant international lessons of union reforms you want to share with Vietnamese trade unionists?

Unions understanding that they need to reform is already a first important step in the right direction.

If you look at the way the labour market is operating today compared to a decade ago, you can see the huge difference. If you look at the aspiration of workers today, their capacity to use information and communication technologies and social networks, it is completely different from what happened 10 years ago.

So unions in today’s world will need to be able to understand all of that and know how best they can communicate and get the messages across their members and target new members.

I think that the reform processes we have seen, for instance in the Scandinavian countries, have been very interesting: They have not only maintained their level of union membership but also been able to expand them. It is because they have understood that traditional sectors where it was easy to organize workers are losing weight and power in the economy, and therefore have targeted the new emerging sectors.

As Viet Nam is moving from an agriculture-based to an industrial-based economy – the industrial base of the information and communication technologies, of robotization, of bringing new technologies into the labour market, the leap has to be much bigger and much faster than it was before. The unions will have to grasp that in a very clear manner. And as I said, the Scandinavian unions in Europe are probably the best in this area. They make a good lesson for Viet Nam.

Source:  ILO News Item

ILO extends probe into forced labour of migrant workers in Qatar

The ITUC has welcomed a decision by the International Labour Organisation to maintain pressure on Qatar over its ’kafala’ system of modern slavery.

The ILO’s Governing Body decided to keep open the possibility of a Commission of Inquiry into Qatar despite the Gulf state’s unprecedented deployment of dozens of lobbyists at the Geneva meeting aiming to shut down any possibility of the UN body’s strongest compliance procedure being applied.

Worker delegates at the ILO, with the support of representatives of employers and governments of democratic countries, refused an attempt by Sudan and the United Arab Emirates to water down the Governing Body’s decision, denying Qatar a propaganda coup.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “Qatar is on notice and has until November when the ILO will revisit this case. The government has refused any serious reform in the years since it was awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and ILO delegates have rejected the false and misleading claims made by Qatar in its report to the ILO this month. There is still hope for the more than 2 million migrant workers in Qatar, many of them trapped their and forced to work against their will.

“Governments, unions and business can see that Qatar has a choice. It can choose to stop the use of modern slavery and meet its international legal obligations on workers rights by, abolishing exit permits, introducing a minimum wage and ending the race based system of wages, establishing an independent grievance procedure and allowing workers representation.

“International businesses working in Qatar don’t want to see their workers or their reputation sullied by modern slavery.”

Foreign workers still need to get permission from their boss to change jobs or leave the country under the notorious exit permit system. A government committee which is supposed to resolve permit grievances has denied exit to scores of workers since it was formed at the end of 2016. Around a quarter of those appealing to the committee have received rejections from the authorities, by text message. There is still no minimum wage, worker deaths number in the hundreds each year even as Qatar suppresses publication of the true rates of accidents and disease, and the total ban on trade unions remains in force.

“This decision will also increase pressure on FIFA, which has pledged human rights respect in its major events after 2022, but so far failed to use its enormous leverage on Qatar to ensure real reform, and respect for international labour and human rights standards,” said Burrow.

The ILO’s decision on Qatar’s progress on labour reform in November will come five years before the opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Source:  International Trade Union Confederation

Thailand must invest in its workers

Maurizio Bussi, Director of the ILO Country Office for Thailand

The world of work is undergoing major changes of unprecedented speed and scale.  Thailand, like other South East Asian countries, must face the challenges posed by these transformations head on.

In today’s economy, work carried out by women and men is being transformed by a set of complex and interconnected factors from technological innovation, aging societies  and pressures on welfare systems and  climate change, to labour migration, unpaid work and the evolving character of production systems and employment.

These changes are bringing high levels of uncertainty and anxiety particularly for workers and their families. And yet, the future of work is not pre-determined, either by technology or any other circumstance. The future of work will be the future chosen by the main actors in the world of work, typically governments, labour and business.

As a contribution to this vital discussion, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) launched the Future of Work Initiative which is the centrepiece of the ILO’s activities leading to its 100th anniversary in 2019.  Under this Initiative the ILO and its member States are working together to deepen their collective understanding of this transformation. This is critical to meet effectively the policy challenges and to advance the shared commitment to decent work for all.

The ILO’s Director-General Guy Ryder said “The ambition is not to mark the ILO’s centenary in a purely ceremonial way, but with a process that will help to guide its work for social justice into its second centenary.”

In the two decades since the 1997 Asian financial crisis left Thailand reeling, many of the country’s leading economists and industry insiders spoke about the need to move up the value chain, invest in innovation and offer global markets higher quality goods and services. We have seen some encouraging progress in important economic sectors such as tourism, medical services, social enterprises and in selected niche businesses.

However, the Thai manufacturing sector by-and-large has continued to rely on a model based on semi- and un-skilled labour with limited technological investment. This will be hard to sustain and the inertia is proving costly.

Thailand’s difficulties to accelerate investment in human capital and technological upgrading has seen countries like Singapore and South Korea surge ahead. While Thailand aspires to emulate a similar development trajectory, the reality is that other regional neighbours like Vietnam and Indonesia are catching up fast.

The good news is that the Kingdom’s policymakers recognize the need to propel the country headlong into what has been labelled as “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, or Industry 4.0. To that end, Thailand has announced its Thailand 4.0 agenda, an economic model based on creativity, innovation, new technology and high-quality services.

No matter how you look at it, this is a tall order. Countries with deeper talent pools and higher productivity are capturing a growing share of manufacturing investment. Such losses are significant given that the manufacturing sector accounts for over 30 per cent of Thailand’s US$395 billion GDP and employs 6.2 million people.

For decades, investment in R&D has been modest at just 0.2–0.3 per cent  of GDP. Vietnam, by comparison, has set a target of 2 percent R&D spending by 2020. Typically only the biggest players in Thai industry have taken on the financial risk to invest in R&D to accelerate innovation. Thailand’s scarcity of advanced researchers remains a challenge.

As automation and the use of robots expand and more lights-out factories become the norm, a certain level of organic job loss will occur. ASEAN countries may be at particular risk. According to a recent ILO’s report on transformative changes across ASEAN countries, about three in five jobs in the region face “a high risk of automation”.

At the same time, demand for lower-skilled labour in Thailand has waned in recent years. Many of these workers will be unable to acquire the skills necessary to remain employable in the manufacturing industry of tomorrow. The result is the risk of increased informality and subsistence service sector jobs, leading to a decline in overall labour productivity and the threat of premature de-industrialization.

Thailand’s shrinking labour pool presents yet another challenge. The Kingdom’s birth-rate has fallen dramatically from seven children per woman in the 1970s to just 1.5 children today. It’s also the third-most-rapidly aging society in the world, making it one of the countries facing the daunting challenge of a shrinking labour pool coupled with a greying population.

To significantly increase the numbers of graduates with the ability and know-how to thrive in high-tech industries and multinational working environments, major reforms must be carried out in Thailand’s education system. The latest rankings of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 has shown the difficulties faced by Thailand’s youth to effectively compete at both regional and global levels, particularly in science, engineering, technology and mathematics.  Indeed, the key to Thailand 4.0’s success lies in improving human resources by drastically reforming and improving the education system.

Thailand is at a critical juncture on its journey toward high-income status, and must evolve meaningfully if it is to bridge the gap with regional and global competitors. If Thailand’s policymakers are determined  in their commitment to transform the country’s economic model — and to do so sustainably in keeping with the its sufficiency economy philosophy  — legitimate progress toward this goal is going to require a candid and in-depth dialogue between government, labour and business on the future of work, the existing challenges Thailand is facing, and most importantly on collective solutions to shape a future guided by the principles of social justice and decent work for all.

Source:  ILO-ACTRAV Newsroom

Press Release No 88-03/17 – FNPF Payout

Fiji Trades Union Congress, National Secretary, Mr Felix Anthony

The Attorney General has once again in Parliament made misleading statements in relation to Worker’s representatives in the FNPF Board.  In trying to justify his Government’s decision to not have Worker’s Representatives on the Board of FNPF, he gave two reasons.

Firstly, he claimed that Mr. Urai and I were paid exorbitant amounts as FNPF Board members from 2007 to 2009. The facts are somewhat quite different. All Board members including Employers and Government representatives of FNPF were paid the same Directors fees.  These fees were set many years prior to 2007 and were not reviewed during our tenure.  The amounts quoted by the Attorney General are incorrect.  FNPF never ever paid those amounts quoted.  Board members were paid according to the responsibilities they undertook at various other institutions that they were forced to serve on.   Again the fees paid by these institutions were set prior to 2007 and were not reviewed during our tenure.  Current Board members are paid the same.  The Attorney General appears to insinuate that the payments to Board Members were unjustified and wrong. I challenge him to prove this.  There was nothing wrong with whatever payments all Board Members received.  It clearly appears convenient for him only to single out Workers Representatives.  While the Attorney General at every opportunity tries to distract people from the real issues by parroting these payments, he has not been as forthcoming with what he has been paid in salary, allowance and benefits he has drawn from the taxpayers funds over the years.  It would certainly sound more credible if he was equally open about payments to him over the last 10 years.  I had during the last election challenged the Attorney General to produce his tax returns, including payments from his Aunt’s firm of Aliz Pacific Limited and I would similarly do the same and that we let the public decide.  He chose not to even respond to that challenge.  I stand by this undertaking and even say, let’s do it for the last 10 years.  If this man is sincere about his concerns, he will accept the challenge.

We have not forgotten that he was not even prepared to release the Auditor General’s report prior to the last elections and even after releasing them after the elections scuttled the full examination of those reports in Parliament by removing the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and putting his very own in that position.  There are many other such examples; let’s say the Cyclone Winston’s funds, despite many calls from all circles to make public the amounts of funds received, from whom and the disbursements, nothing has been forth coming.  People affected by the Cyclone continue to live in tents today.  The current $1,000 handouts, supposedly from the Indian Government.  There is absolutely no accountability nor transparency or even any form of monitoring of where the funds are actually going and how many new businesses have come up.  He may also want to justify the real exorbitant pay rise and allowances he and his cabinet received.  He may want to tell the public why he and the Prime Minister need to be paid $2,000 to $3,000 a day as travel allowance.  It would be interesting for him to reveal how much allowances he and the Prime Minister have been paid over the last 10 years apart from salary and benefits.  This would put matters in the right perspective and definitely redefine the word “exorbitant”. This Government has been the least transparent and accountable Fiji has ever had and yet has the audacity to point fingers and attempt to malign others.

The second reason given is that, Mr. Urai and I made bad decisions on Natadola and Momi projects.  The fact is that neither of us were on the Board of FNPF when decisions were made to undertake those projects.  These decisions were made much prior to 2007.  We were brought in to save the Natadola Project which we did and it is common knowledge that we saved millions of dollars which members of FNPF would have lost had we not taken some very drastic actions at the time.  We have letters of commendation from the FNPF external auditors for the work that we did in Natadola.  As for Momi, we had absolutely nothing to do with that project.  Records can be examined.  The AG was aware of these facts but appears to have had a convenient memory lapse.  I again challenge him to tell the public what wrong decisions is he referring to that the Workers Representatives have taken or is it just hot air to justify removing workers representatives from the FNPF Board and putting in his own people so that FNPF simply becomes another department of Government.

The Fiji Trades Union Congress has been adamant that the FNPF belongs to the workers of this country and not the Government.  There were perfectly good reasons for having a tripartite board to maintain checks and balances.  We reiterate that the Board of FNPF was removed in 2009 because the Board would not agree to a Government request for another $500m to be put aside to fund the Government budget deficit for that year.  The strategy of this Government is to distract from the real issues.  It is time to come clean Mr AG and not take advantage of Parliament and your very own Fiji Sun and FBC.

 Mr Felix Anthony,  FTUC National Secretary

Press Release No 87-03/17 – ILO Eyes On Fiji

329th Session of the ILO Governing Body, Geneva

The most recent report from the Committee of Freedom of Association was presented to the Governing Body of ILO on Wednesday 22nd March 2017 in Geneva and was adopted.  The report recalled its last report on Fiji and the outstanding issues that needed following up.

The Committee examined the Governments response on progress made. The Fiji Government once again gave its undertaking that it is committed to implementing the Joint Implementation Report (“JIR”) signed by the Fiji Trades Union Congress, the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation and Government last February 2016 and the ERP Amendment Act 2016. This means that the Government needs to ensure that the Arbitration Court is fully operational with sufficient resources, the determination of Essential Industries and the finalization of the Labour Law Review which has been ongoing since 2013 to ensure that the laws fully comply with all Core Conventions of ILO and ratified Conventions.

The Committee has once again requested that the:

Government to keep it informed on the functioning in practice of the ERAB and that the Government will continue to show commitment to implement the JIR and the 2016 ERP amendment.”

The Committee of Experts has also requested the Government:

“to provide concrete information on the progress made in addressing all pending matters in this regard in the near future.”

The Fiji Trades Union Congress remains concerned at the slow pace in which the implementation process is progressing.  The Arbitration Court has been overloaded with a backlog of cases without sufficient resources to cope.  It is now more than a year and the Court has been unable to become fully operational.  The problem is further compounded by the fact that the Tribunal needs to be Tripartite with the availability of representatives to sit for hearings has been a constant problem.  The Fiji Trades Union Congress calls upon the Government to review the composition and resources allocated to the Arbitration Court together with the social partners.

The Committee of Experts had also called upon the Government to reinstate Collective Agreements that were abrogated by the ENI Decree.  The Government unfortunately misled the Committee to believe that it was not possible as new Collective Agreements were negotiated and were in place.  The Fiji Trades Union Congress is unaware of any new Agreement being negotiated and registered in any company that fell within the ENI Decree. The Report states:

The Committee request the Government to indicate whether all collective agreements abrogated by the ENID were replaced by newly negotiated collective agreements and, should this not be the case, to take the necessary measures to ensure that, at least in the public sector, collective agreements abrogated by the ENID can be used as a basis for re-negotiations.”

The Fiji Trades Union Congress will be submitting a report to the Committee to indicate that Governments claims were totally misleading and untrue.  We remain concerned at such behavior and call upon the Government to show sincerity and honesty is such matters.  The Fiji Trades Union Congress will advise its affiliates to take note of the Committee of Experts request and ensure that workers are not short changed by agreeing to lesser terms and conditions that they enjoyed prior to the ENID.

The Committee of Experts also again raised concerns on the Public Order Amendment Decree and denounced arrest of citizens under the Decree. The Report states:

The Committee wishes to emphasize the importance it attaches to freedom of assembly in the context of trade union rights and in view of the concerns previously raised as to the adverse effects of the POAD can have on legitimate trade union activities, request the Government to ensure that it is not used to impede the exercise of these rights.”

The Committee also once again requested Government to reinstate Mr. Rajeshwar Singh as the Workers Representative in ATS from which he was removed by Government.  The Committee welcomed the withdrawal of charges against Daniel Urai.

The Fiji Trades Union Congress remains concerned that Government had not consulted the FCEF and FTUC prior to reporting to ILO.  This is normal standard practice and demonstrates true tripartism. The Government cannot run to the social partners to avoid a Commission of Inquiry and then act on its own. The FTUC calls upon the Government to act upon the Committees report without delay.  The FTUC will closely monitor progress and will not hesitate to file a separate report should the Government continue down the current path.  Similarly, we expect proper consultations with the FTUC on the setting of the minimum wage in accordance with the ILO Convention 26 and 131.  We also note that the Industry Wages Councils have also been dormant and urge Government to act upon this matter without delay.

Felix Anthony,  National Secretary

Nepali teachers develop united front in the face of growing privatisation

Confronted by a lack of political will to reinforce children’s right to education, Nepals education leaders are joining Education Internationals Global Response campaign to take collective action to turn the tide of privatisation.

Deeply concerned by the growing privatisation of education in Nepal, the country’s teacher unions are have committed to work together to tackle the challenge, which has continued to worsen since two major earthquakes in 2015 levelled thousands of schools, and forced untold thousands of students to continue their education in makeshift classrooms across the country.

Leaders of the Nepal National Teachers’ Association (NNTA), the Nepal Teachers’ Association (NTA) and the Sansthagat Vidyalaya Schickshak Union Nepal (ISTU) are focusing on addressing  the lack of adequate funding allocated to public education, and the failure of non-state providers to comply with existing regulations, such as the Education Act.

The decision to pool together efforts and resources came during a recent Global Response planning meeting with Education International (EI)on the 4-5 March in Kathmandu.

The thee EI affiliates committed themselves to jointly lead a national campaign to strengthen the public education system and challenge the privatisation of education, putting pressure on the government to fulfill its obligation to provide free quality public education for all, and guarantee that all education providers of education follow minimum standards.Their joint action strategy also plans for them to advocate for a legislative framework needed to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 4.

Source:  Education International, Asia Pacific Newsroom

http://www.ei-ie.org/asiapacific/en/newsshow.php?id=8673&theme=ppp&country=Nepal

 

ILO revises its landmark Declaration on multinational enterprises

The revised Tripartite Declaration of principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration) adds principles to the Declaration addressing decent work issues related to social security, forced labour, transition from the informal to the formal economy, access to remedy and compensation of victims, inter alia. It provides enhanced guidelines for fostering the contribution of multinational enterprises to achieve decent work for all.

The revision of the landmark Declaration by the ILO Governing Body responds to new economic realities, including increased international investment and trade, and the growth of global supply chains.

Its principles are aimed at multinational and national enterprises, governments, and employers’ and workers’ organizations in the areas of employment, training, conditions of work and life, and industrial relations as well as general policies. These include the fundamental principles and rights at work but also guidance on many other facets of decent work.

Forty years after the adoption of the original MNE Declaration, multinational enterprises remain key drivers of globalization. Their operations can affect the working and living conditions of people worldwide and they continue to play a vital role in promoting economic and social progress.

The revision of the Declaration by the ILO Governing Body  responds to new economic realities, including increased international investment and trade, and the growth of global supply chains. It also takes into account developments since the last update in 2006 within and outside the ILO, including new labour standards adopted by the International Labour Conference, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the Human Rights Council in 2011, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development .

The revision has enriched the MNE Declaration by adding principles addressing specific decent work issues related to social security, forced labour, transition from the informal to the formal economy, wages, access to remedy and compensation of victims.

It also provides guidance on “due diligence” processes ‒ consistent with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights ‒ in achieving decent work, , sustainable businesses, more inclusive growth and better sharing of the benefits of FDI, particularly relevant for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 8 .

The MNE Declaration recognizes the different roles and responsibilities of government, enterprises and social partners in achieving its aim of inclusive economic growth and decent work. Its principles are therefore addressed not only to enterprises but also to governments.

The MNE Declaration provides clear guidance on how enterprises can contribute through their operations worldwide to the realization of decent work.” – Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General

To encourage commitment to the principles of the MNE Declaration by all parties, the Governing Body of the ILO adopted a range of operational tools, including a regional follow-up mechanism, tripartite appointed national focal-points, company-union dialogue, and interpretation procedure of the principles of the MNE Declaration. ILO country-level assistance will also be provided to governments, employers and workers.

“The revised MNE Declaration reflects a robust consensus among governments, employers and workers firmly anchored in today’s realities. The MNE Declaration provides clear guidance on how enterprises can contribute through their operations worldwide to the realization of decent work,” ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, said. “Its recommendations rooted in international labour standards reflect good practices for all enterprises but also highlight the role of government in stimulating good corporate behaviour as well as the crucial role of social dialogue.”

The MNE Declaration is the only global instrument addressing corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices that was elaborated and adopted in a tripartite manner by governments, employers and workers from around the world.

Source:  ILO Newsroom

http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_547615/lang–en/index.htm

 

PRESS RELEASE NO 86-02/17, FTUC – MINIMUM WAGE

The Fiji Trades Union Congress notes with interest the recent comments attributed to the Attorney General calling on workers not to resort to money lenders for loans and his observation that home ownership amongst workers in Fiji is low.  We totally agree with AG’S advice and observation.  However, the AG needs to examine the root cause of this serious problem and the appropriate remedy.

The fact is, majority of Fiji’s workers are earning very low wages, well below the poverty line.  Their everyday challenge is to put food on the table for their families.  This is any food and not healthy food. The Ministry of Health’s campaign on reducing NCD’S and the promotion of healthy living makes no sense when people live in extreme poverty.  In most cases, workers are unable to make ends meet which necessitates borrowing.  It is a fact that these workers are unable to obtain loans from the bank because of the low wages that they earn and their inability to repay any loans. This is further exacerbated by the fact that many of these workers are on minimum wage or just above the minimum wage.  These workers have little choice but to turn to money lenders to put food on the table. This condemns these workers into perpetual debt by paying a small portion of the loan and borrowing more at exorbitant interest rates.

The Government’s policy of imposing individual contracts and in many cases short term contracts further makes it impossible for these workers to obtain bank loans. In many Government owned enterprises the length of these contracts is from 3 months to 1 year and is renewable.  Senior positions are usually between 2 to 3 years.  In such situations, these workers are unable to obtain housing loans as repayments would have to be for a longer term. The bottom line is that if these workers are unable to put food on the table, housing is unthinkable.  It is evident around urban areas that squatter settlements have been growing and it is no surprise why this is so. The promotion of collective bargaining is the way to go and not individual contracts.

It is for this reason that Fiji Trades Union Congress has been campaigning for a decent minimum wage so that workers can live with some dignity and be able to provide their families with the necessities of life. The current Government imposed minimum wage is an insult to working families and condemns them to extreme poverty which gives no dignity nor is it sufficient for a decent existence.

No one can provide for all the needs of a family on $2.32 an hour or a gross pay of $93 for a 44 hour week after FNPF and we should stop pretending that it is alright to treat people as lesser humans in the interest of businesses.  The National Employment Scheme, undermines the minimum wage at $60 per week with no other entitlements further condemning young workers to extreme poverty with the promise of job creation which is a farce. The fact is they replace permanent unskilled workers in many industries.

The Ministry of Poverty Alleviation recently stated that the poverty line is at about $202 a week.  This would peg the hourly rate of pay at $4.60 an hour.  The FTUC has pegged the starting point at $4.00 an hour which must be reviewed annually upwards.  The Government has repeatedly stated and promised the people of its commitment to alleviate poverty.  A fair minimum wage would go a long way in that regard. The FTUC urges the AG and Minister of Finance to seriously consider the FTUC proposal and implement a decent minimum wage at $4 as a starting point.

Past explanations and excuses given by the Minister for Labour citing “the bigger picture” and sustainability is seriously flawed and unacceptable. The poor are part of the bigger picture and in fact make the majority of the population.  The most recent excuse by the Minister is that a study would be commissioned and consultations would be held to determine minimum wage.  Why is it that when it comes to the poor, there must be some fancy study commissioned and when Parliamentarians and Government Ministers salary and allowances are increased exorbitantly overnight, they are not subject to the same public scrutiny?  The Minister’s excuses totally discredit the Government’s commitment and election promise of inclusive growth.  There is no point in talking of GDP growth when our people are forced deeper into poverty.  Clearly, the benefits of any such growth have not been flowing to the poor and that is evident.  This is time to act and not just dish advice and observe problems that are created by bad Government policy.  The right to decent work including wages and housing are human rights issues and Government must take full responsibility for the current sad state of affairs.  It is time that Government actually listened to the cries of the poor and not just big businesses.  It is not the time for freebees to pacify the poor but real actions to uplift the quality of life of our people.

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

 

Bangladesh government continues repression against garment workers

Last week, the Bangladesh government released some of the labour activists arrested on trumped-up charges after a strike of garment workers demanding higher pay in Ashulia industrial district near Dhaka. Several workers remain in custody and the police are continuing to pursue charges against all those arrested.

The release on bail of several arrested activists followed an agreement between the IndustriALL Global Union (IAGU), the Swiss-based UNI Global Union (UNIGU), the Labour Ministry and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

The unions have not reported the exact number of released workers or explained why others were not bailed out. At least 35 workers remain in custody.

The IAGU and UNIGU have been lobbying Western retailers since the arrest of workers in December to press the Dhaka government to release them and for companies to recognise the trade unions. In response, five retail giants—H&M, Inditex, C&A, Next and Tchibo—announced that they had pulled out of last month’s annual Dhaka Apparel Summit (DAS) organized by the BGMEA to promote apparel exports.

The repression began after some 150,000 workers from more than two dozen factories went on strike for 10 days in December. The workers advanced 16 demands, including a wage rise to 16,000 taka ($200) a month from the current wage of 5,300 taka. The Bangladesh government and the companies reacted ruthlessly, locking out workers at 85 factories and arresting scores of strikers, including local union leaders.

Factories reopened at the end of December after the firing of at least 1,600 workers. These workers have been black-listed by the companies, making it impossible for them to find new jobs. The owners of eight factories in Ashulia have filed charges with the police accusing arrested activists of vandalism, looting and assault.

The unions and human right groups say these charges have been laid without any evidence. Three workers and a journalist have been charged under the draconian Special Powers Act for political violence unrelated to the strike. Some workers are hiding to avoid arrest.

Since the crackdown, fearing that major struggles could erupt, the government has mobilised police and paramilitary forces near factories not only in Ashulia but throughout the country to intimidate workers.

Apparel companies decided to pull out of the Dhaka Summit not out of concern for the rights of the workers, but for fear that the explosion of labour struggles would impact their imports and profits. The US and European companies are reaping massive profits from low-cost brands imported from Bangladesh.

IAGU General Secretary Walter Sanches said the release of workers was “an important victory for the garment workers in Bangladesh, sending a strong message to the country’s industry to enter into constructive dialogue with trade unions.” The UNIGU general secretary praised “international solidarity,” by which he meant the “support” of some Western retailers and trade unions.

Global unions are keen to establish trade unions in all factories and have “dialogue” with company bosses, hoping they can be enlisted to help discipline the workers. In Europe and America, these unions are working with corporations, including retailers, to slash the wages and benefits of their members.

No sooner had the release on bail of the detained workers been announced than the IAGU and UNIGU informed the companies that they could participate in the Dhaka Apparel summit.

However, the frame-up charges have not been withdrawn, the crackdown on the unions continues, and wages have not been increased. In December, the companies refused to negotiate wages until 2019. But according to earlier agreement reached in 2013, wages had to be increased last year.

The Ashulia strike was a spontaneous action. None of the global unions or their affiliates in Bangladesh were involved in calling it.

Western capital is attracted to Bangladesh because of the low production costs, which are based on the appalling conditions of the workers. Promises were made by the government, the garment companies and Western retailers to improve the conditions of workers after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in 2013, which housed eight garment factories. This, among the world’s worst industrial disasters, killed more than 1,100 workers and maimed many others.

Still, Bangladesh garment workers are among the lowest paid in the world, working conditions are brutal and unsafe, and intimidation and repression continue unabated.
Prime Minister Sheik Hasina inaugurated the Dhaka Apparel Summit on February 25, but did not utter a word about the repression going on under her government in Ashulia. Hasina said as many as 3,869 factories had been inspected but only 39 closed down due to poor conditions. In the same breath, she said huge funds were needed to improve factory conditions and appealed to Western buyers to help.

Her speech focused on increasing future garment export targets. She urged producers not to be “stuck in the traditional destinations,” and to “roll up your sleeves and find new markets.” Europe and America are the main markets for Bangladesh garment exports.
Hasina said she was hoping for duty- and quota-free access of Bangladesh products to the European Union so that her country could improve its share, currently 5.1 percent, of the international garment export market. She lamented that because of the absence of such facilities in the US, Bangladesh companies have to pay $850 million in taxes annually for $3 billion of exports.

The Bangladesh garment industry is the country’s main foreign exchange earner, accounting for 82 percent of all exports. A massive work force of 4 million is toiling in these factories. In an environment of cut-throat competition for market share, the Hasina government is determined to maintain cheap-labour conditions. This drives her government’s ruthless repression of workers.

The US-based organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a detailed report this month on the ongoing repression since December. It noted that “10 criminal complaints” were filed in December “implicating about 150 named workers and over 1,600 ‘unknown’ people for crimes” during the strike.

Though the number of those arrested is reported to be around 44, the real number is not known, as police have not provided a full list. Nor have the police revealed where jailed strikers are being held. A journalist from the local news channel ETV was also was arrested for reporting on the strikes.

The report noted that many workers suddenly “vanished,” but “more than 24 hours later” were brought before a court. This means the police abducted them.

Police intimidation includes the use of criminal complaints against large numbers, threats of arrest, repeated re-arrest of detainees, withholding of bail, forced confessions through torture, and other forms of degrading treatment.

The government continues to defend the repression. Mohammad Haque, junior minister at the Ministry of Labour, said the December protests were illegal and law-and-order measures had to be taken. BGMEA President Mohammad Siddiqur Rahman said the protests were “chaos and lawlessness created by an unruly section of workers.” He praised law-enforcement agencies for detaining “some people who created obstacles to production in the factories.”

Sitting on a socially explosive situation, the Hasina government is increasingly resorting to authoritarian methods of rule, of which the repression of garment workers is a major part.

Source:  World Socialist Website
By:  Sarath Kumara

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/03/03/bang-m03.html

Individual Contracts Must Go

The FTUC calls on Government, Municipalities and all statutory bodies to revoke individual contracts and replace them with Collective Agreements. In March of 2015 and March of 2016, the Fijian Government made an unqualified undertaking that it would respect ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on the right of all workers to Freedom of Association and the right to organize and collectively bargain.  Based on that undertaking an Agreement was reached between the FTUC, FCEF and Government.  As a result of this Agreement, the ENI Decree and the Public Service Amendment Decree were repealed.  The ERP Amendment Act 2015 and 2016 restored these fundamental rights to all workers.  This resulted in the FTUC agreeing to withdraw its complaint to ILO under Article 26 for an ILO Commission of Inquiry.

While we have amended the laws, we find Government, Municipalities and Statutory bodies continuing to insist on Individual Contracts for workers.  An unequivocal undertaking and the amendments of the law is not sufficient. We need to see that these rights are put into practice.  Individual contracts go against the very spirit of collective bargaining and gives workers little or no job security.  Employers can at will, without cause, terminate contracts and we see many instances where this has occurred.  Bio Security of Fiji would be a case in point where it terminates employees summarily without cause and continues to deny giving reasons for termination despite that being a requirement of the laws of Fiji. Similar cases exist in many Government owned entities and the civil service.

Individual Contracts actually deny workers an effective voice at the workplace and forces workers to accept any terms and conditions offered no matter how unfair they may be. We have witnessed a serious decline in working conditions and benefits to workers since the imposition of the ENI Decree. Many Government owned companies and even Banks had simply decided to take full advantage of the ENI Decree to reduce benefits and force workers into fixed term contracts from 1 year to 3 years.  Some have even gone to the extent of only giving three month contracts which is renewed every three months just so that workers do no accrue long service or other benefits.  This is outrages and grossly unfair and a clear strategy to exploit workers.  This is tantamount to denying workers any rights and to bonded labour.  Workers are unable to plan their families and in many cases are unable to get loans from banks and other financial institutions for housing, health, education or even social commitments, the very essentials of life.  Clearly this does not fit the definition of “Decent Work” which this Government has also committed to ensure and which is an integral part of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This also does not also fit into the definition of the right of workers to fair labour practices prescribed in our Constitution under the Bill of Rights. This is a clear violation, to the contrary.

The FTUC remains very concerned at the refusal of some Municipalities to enter into negotiations with Unions.  The Ministry of Local Government appears to be the only authority that approves these processes and vets any claims by unions and outcomes. This is a clear demonstration by the Minister and his Ministry of the lack of confidence in the Special Administrators and the desire to micro manage Municipal Councils.  It appears to be all about total power.  Temporary individual contracts in permanent jobs are rampant in almost all municipalities.  It is clearly time for democratic elections for Councils. The ratepayers must have their rightful voice. The excuse that a review of the Councils will take place prior to the elections is nothing but an excuse not to have elections so that Government can have total control.

The FTUC calls upon Government to scrap all individual contracts and revert to the contracts with full tenure as in the past.  The excuse that fixed term contracts hold workers to account and improves productivity is nothing but a farce.  In fact it disempowers workers and makes them feel insecure both professionally and socially. It once again brings back the “master- servant” relationship which was dismantled many years ago through collective bargaining.  Dignity at work is an essential element of Decent Work. The Government has to lead by example and must demonstrate its commitment to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining.  I call upon Government to enter into dialogue with the Unions to ensure fair working practices are in place and Decent Work is achieved in reality. Individual contracts for management positions and highly skilled positions are understandable but must not be imposed.  The imposition of individual contracts on the Civil Service, Municipal Councils and Government owned entities and banks to deny workers the right to Collective Bargaining a “badge of shame” for workers and human rights and needs immediate review and redress.

Felix Anthony,  National Secretary

$2.32 condemns workers to life of poverty

THE Government’s $2.32 minimum wage is condemning unskilled workers to a life of poverty and exploitation by businesses, claims the Fiji Trades Union Congress.

FTUC National Secretary Felix Anthony said while they welcomed the recent announcement by Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Minister Jone Usamate that Government intended to review the minimum wage and wages regulations orders, he called for widespread consultations.

“Government has repeatedly said in domestic and international forums that it wants to eradicate poverty,” he said.

“And the only way it can do this is by ensuring that every worker earns enough to cover basic food items, housing needs and pay for utilities — their water and electricity bills. Any wage that does not allow them to do that is nothing short of a farce.

“We believe $4 an hour is a good starting point.  A worker on this rate earns about $150 a week and when you take into account the cost of food, transport, housing and utilities, this will allow a worker to provide decent meals and shelter for his or her family.

“We have said time and again that the $2.32 minimum wage is condemning workers to extreme poverty and exploitation by businesses and this must be reviewed after extensive consultations with all stakeholders.”

Mr Usamate, who is abroad, said he would respond to questions sent by this newspaper on the comments made by Mr Anthony upon his return.

Source:  Fiji Times Newsroom

By:  Felix Chaudhary

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=389573

Asia-Pacific education unions focus on Education 2030 agenda

Implementing the Education 2030 agenda in the Asia-Pacific region was the focus of a regional consultation of education union leaders.

On right Mr Agni Deo Singh, FTU General Secretary

The Education 2030 Agenda and sustainable development goals (SDGs) were the focus of the Regional Consultation on Education 2030 Agenda, organised by the Education International Asia-Pacific (EIAP) regional office in Bangkok, Thailand, on 15-17 December. The meeting was attended by over 25 teachers’ union leaders representing 17 education unions in Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam. Representatives from UNESCO, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Action Aid International also participated in the consultation.

Integration of agenda

Applauding the Education 2030 agenda, participants agreed wider collaboration was required to achieve the SDGs. In addition, the education agenda must be integrated into the agendas for decent work and the gender equality. This is necessary to promote quality education for all, end discrimination and exclusion, and ensure decent work for all workers, including teachers.

Attendees also highlighted that the Education 2030 agenda will not be achieved unless governments in the region improve access to and quality of public education. They must also strengthen the public education system by providing adequate funding, appointing trained and qualified teachers, improving school infrastructure, and creating child-friendly schools.

Human right

“Publicly funded quality education is a fundamental human right and the governments’ responsibility,” said EIAP Regional Committee Member Agni Deo Singh. “We, the educators, must not allow corporate takeover of education and should unite together to demand that the governments fulfil their responsibility and commitments.”

Anand Singh from EI also called upon the education unions to work harder together to ensure that their governments’ commitments are translated into action at national level.

Way forward

At the end of the consultation, participants developed advocacy strategies to put pressure on governments to implement the SDGs. Plans focus on raising awareness of SDGs among union members and the public in general, social dialogue with the government and stakeholders, networking and building solidarity with trade unions and civil society organisations, and the dissemination of information on SDGs through various media, including online platforms.

Participants also decided to mainstream advocacy and awareness on the Education 2030 agenda in the union programmes and activities.

Source:  Education International Asia Pacific Newsroom

http://www.ei-ie.org/asiapacific/en/newsshow.php?id=8586&theme=sustainable&country=Thailand

In Pakistan, Community Health Workers Get Their Issues Across

On 30 January, the All Sindh Lady Health Workers and Employees Association, PSI and Workers Education and Research Organisation organised a public meeting in Karachi on “Socio Economic Impacts of Delayed Wages on LHWs and their families” and “Sexual Harassment of Lady Health Workers on the Job and Field” to share the findings of two studies to be published very soon.
Lady Health Workers (LHWs) are part of the National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Healthcare, started in 1994. Under this program, women provide family planning, pre-natal and neonatal care, immunization services and other key child and women health services in the community. It has been shown that maternal and infant mortality rates are lower in areas where LHWs are active.

Findings include that 63%of the respondents are the sole breadwinners of the family. However, they reported an average monthly income of PKR 15,245 (137 euros), whereas their monthly expenditures stood at PKR 29,567 (265 euros). Uncertain job descriptions, long working hours and erratic traveling are other issues faced on a regular basis. Wages are generally not paid on time, and the All Sindh Lady Health Workers and Employees Association (ASLEHWA) has been instrumental in pressurizing the government in releasing salaries.

The programme is a major employer of women in the non-agricultural sector in rural areas. There are 125,000 LHW in Pakistan, out of which 22,576 are in Sindh.

Further due to the fact that their work makes them step over the gender division of public and private space, LHW face humiliation and verbal abuse by members of the communities they serve, domestic violence at home and sexual harassment at work by their colleagues in the health system and in the field by members of the community.

Most of these instances go unreported due to the fear of repercussions. In many instances, LHW reported being worried that their families would ask them to leave the job or even disown them. Cases of extreme violence include orchestrated murders by religious fundamentalist groups, estimated at 22 deaths since 2012.

Recommendations included revising salaries structures commensurate with qualifications, awareness campaigns among LHWs and their colleagues in the health system on laws and mechanisms relative to the protection against sexual harassment. Mechanisms should also be set up in the districts to monitor violence and sexual harassment cases by community members.

Source:  Public Service International

By:  Susana Barria

http://www.world-psi.org/en/pakistan-community-health-workers-get-their-issues-across

Australia: calls for guaranteed preschool funding are made as government prepares for cuts

Educators have launched a campaign demanding sustainable funding for preschools, which they see as vital for a child’s development, giving them social and educational skills they need to achieve at school.

On 3 February, the Australian Education Union (AEU), an Education International National Affiliate, launched its ‘Protect Our Preschools’ campaign, calling on the Federal Government to guarantee ongoing funding for preschools and to end the uncertainty facing parents and education personnel.

While over 95 per cent of four-year-olds in Australia are enrolled in a government-funded programme of 15 hours per week of preschool, this programme is under threat from public authorities that will not guarantee its share of the funding beyond 2017. This has prevented preschools from being able to plan for the future, putting educators’ jobs at risk.

Pressure on public authorities

All children deserve access to quality preschool to help prepare them for school, said AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe. The union’s new campaign will promote the value of preschool and put further pressure on the Federal Government to provide long-term funding.

“Education Minister Simon Birmingham has spoken repeatedly about the benefits of preschool; he needs to do more than talk, he needs to give preschools the funding certainty they need,” she stressed.

The AEU, its members, and supporters have already campaigned successfully on two occasions for preschool funding to be extended, she said. “Short-term extensions are not good enough; our children deserve guaranteed access to quality preschool and educators deserve certainty about their future.”

Quality preschool best preparation for life-long learning

Haythorpe highlighted how research shows that quality preschool is the best preparation for a life of learning, because it boosts readiness for school and lifts results in the long term.

She questioned why the Federal Government would even consider cutting funding from programmes that deliver huge benefits to children. Every child deserves a head start on learning and access to 15 hours a week of preschool, taught by a university trained teacher, Haythorpe said.

Falling behind in funding

This campaign gives parents and educators a voice to tell the Turnbull Government that all children deserve 15 hours of preschool.

Australia already invests far less in early childhood education than the average in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. Its national funding accounts for just 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) compared to the OECD average of 0.8 per cent, Haythorpe said, adding that “this flies in the face of research that finds that preschool is cost-effective way of lifting school performance”.

Source:  Education International Newsroom

http://www.ei-ie.org/asiapacific/en/newsshow.php?id=8633&theme=earlychildhood&country=Australia

ITF: MLC Abandonment Provisions Coming Into Force

The ITF (International Transport Workers Federation) is giving a warm welcome to the major new Maritime Labour Convention provisions on crew abandonment that will come into force tomorrow (18 January 2017).

ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: “From tomorrow the mechanisms will be in place for a huge change that will finally treat the running sore of crew abandonment.  At last the fundamental idea that those who send seafarers to sea have a responsibility for them is enshrined in regulation.”

MLC_DMA

He continued: “This provision has been a long time coming, and, just as with the MLC itself, the ITF is proud to have been involved since its conception, working alongside the ILO, governments and shipping organisations.”

ITF general secretary Steve Cotton commented: “These new provisions are deeply significant, and a worthy addition to the hugely significant MLC itself.  All parties must now work together to ensure that they are put into action, and address those areas in the world where there’s an absence of MLC ratification.”

He concluded: “It’s important that seafarers understand what the changes mean.  We recommend that they check that there is a valid insurance certificate on board and realise that if abandonment does occur that they must raise the alarm right away.  To help spread this message we’ve set up dedicated web pages in multiple languages www.itfseafarers-abandonment.org, and we are making available simple A4 instruction posters for use in missions and on ships.”

Source: Marine Insight News Network

http://www.marineinsight.com/shipping-news/itf-mlc-abandonment-provisions-coming-force/

Maritime Labour Convention in Pacific Island countries

Kiribati seafarers in training

The maritime sector, despite some decline in recent years, continues to be critical to economic development and day-to-day survival in some Pacific Island countries.  It remains an important source of jobs and income in the Pacific region and generates remittance transfers from seafarers of up to 25 per cent of GNP in some countries.  However, if left unregulated, Pacific seafarers can be vulnerable to exploitation, while shipping registries may be unable to maintain competitiveness without the adoption of international standards.

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006  came into force in 2013 and consolidated a number of existing maritime labour conventions and related recommendations. The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) , is designed to help achieve the twin goals of ensuring a ‘level playing field’ for quality ship owners and establish improve conditions of work for seafarers by prescribing certain minimum conditions of work.

The MLC has been widely ratified among Pacific island ILO member States including Tuvalu, Kiribati, Palau, Marshall Islands and Samoa. However, in some cases, member States require capacity support to implement the requirements of the Convention.

Since 2009, the ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries has provided tailored support to ILO member States to ratify and implement the MLC. This included engaging the Pacific International Maritime Law Association  to conduct gap analyses of existing law. The ILO also held a range of awareness raising meetings with governments, employers and workers and assistance with the development of Action Plans to ratify the MLC.

Where possible and practicable, the Office has supported officials to attend training on the MLC at the ILO’s International Training Centre based in Turin.

Source:  ILO Office in the Pacific

Fix wages ‘for right reasons’

FIJI Trades Union Congress National Secretary Felix Anthony says Government’s proposal to revise the national minimum wage had to be done for the right reasons.

“We are not interested in an artificial increase just because the general election is around the corner,” Mr Anthony said.

“Any process to increase the minimum wage must be done in an inclusive and transparent manner.

“And Government must take into account the real cost of living in today’s Fiji.

“They must wake up to the fact that $80 a week does not go very far in buying basic food items these days and that’s how much a person on the $2.32 minimum wage takes home.”

Speaking in Parliament last week on Thursday, Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Minister Jone Usamate outlined Government’s proposal to revise the national minimum wage and wage regulation orders.

The wage regulation review was for the security, manufacturing, printing, building and civil engineering, roads, sawmilling and logging, hotel, mining and quarrying, wholesale and retail and garment sectors.

Mr Anthony said given that the FTUC was the employees representative in tripartite affairs, he was surprised at the announcement.

“So far we have had no discussions despite the fact I have written to the Minister about our $4 an hour minimum wage campaign,” he said.

“He (Mr Usamate) talks about consultation, but there has been none.

“We certainly hope the consultation process and proposed increases will take into account all aspects and not just simply worrying about making big businesses happy.

“We have a tendency in this country where big businesses use small businesses like the corner shop to determine what our minimum wage should be.

“They say they can’t support a $4 minimum wage because the corner shop won’t be able to afford it.

“Our answer is this — there ought to be machinery in place where any employer that pleads inability to pay should be inspected and dispensation be granted on a case by case basis.

“Obviously, the businesses who can afford to pay the $4 an hour minimum wage will attract better workers while the ones that cannot will attract the type of employees they can afford.”

Source:  Fiji Times

By:  Felix Chaudhary

Union Leader Welcomes Employment Tribunal Ruling

The Fiji Teachers Union General Secretary Agni Deo Singh has welcomed the recent rulings of the Employment Relations Tribunal for a hearing for individual worker’s redress.

“We are most happy that the rights of the individual employees are in Government ministries to seek redress through the employment tribunal by submitting individual grievances. The rights have now been restored and there is a fair hearing given to them,” he said.

“I think it’s a return to where we were before the decrees took away our fundamental rights.

“So, all public servants now can seek redress by submitting their individual grievances to the employment tribunal in the Ministry of Labour.”

In a recent case, a school teacher won an appeal against the Ministry of Education’s decision not to promote him to head teacher.

Chief Tribunal of the Employment Relations Tribunal, Sainivalati Kuruduadua, has ordered that Naseem Ali be promoted as a head teacher of Ahmadiyya Muslim Primary School of Lautoka.

Mr Singh said this would encourage others who had been victims of unfair decisions to submit their cases to the tribunal.

Source: Fiji Sun

Edited by Rusiate Mataika

http://fijisun.com.fj/2017/02/06/union-leader-welcomes-employment-tribunal-rulings/

Occupational Safety and Health – Stopping the sparks flying boosts factory safety in Bangladesh

Electrical faults are the leading cause of fires in the Bangladesh garment industry.   ILO with the support of the US Department of Labor has helped build capacity of fire inspectors to spot electrical risks.

Shahjadi Sultana is one of just a handful of female fire inspectors in Bangladesh.

Following her promotion to Warehouse Inspector in 2015, Shahjadi Sultana has checked some 500 establishments across Bangladesh for fire safety.  However since taking part in specialized electrical safety training in late 2016 she is now able to assess important electrical systems with a more critical eye while carrying out inspections.

Organized by the International Labour Organization’s “Improving Fire and General Building Safety in Bangladesh ” project funded by the US Department of Labor, the training helped participants gain knowledge of electrical engineering considerations as they apply to safety.  The need for the training is clear.  According to Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence Department (BFSCD) figures, approximately 75 percent of fires in the garment industry are caused by electrical faults.

For Shahjadi, gaining knowledge of electrical safety issues marked another step in her development as an inspector. After joining the Fire Service in 1992 as a telephone operator – at a time when women were not allowed to work in the field – the inspector has slowly worked her way up through the ranks. Shahjadi is now one of five women working in fire service operations and inspection cells. She has been in the field for almost 14 years – 4 as a sub-officer and another 10 as the station officer at Chittagong’s Kalurghat – when she had to go out to numerous fires many of which were caused by electric short circuits. She now knows a lot more about reducing the danger of fires caused by electrical faults.

Shahjadi Sultana during a factory visit

315 fire inspectors and representatives of the labour inspectorate and industry organizations took part in the three-day training sessions. These helped raise awareness of potential electrical safety hazards, build understanding on the design of fire detection and alarm systems as well as provide a basic understanding of schematics. Classroom work was complemented by field visits to help trainees put new skills into practice in a factory environment.

The new knowledge has been put to good use. “There are factories with their substations above the ground floor which should be on the ground floor. I have also found on a number of occasions that the earthing is not quite right and immediately drew the attention of the management,” Shahjadi explains. She adds that the standard checklist of points to cover while on inspections did not go into great detail when it came to electrical issues, as fire personnel typically did not have the skills or knowledge to identify certain hazards.

Making inspections more robust

“In light of the training on electrical safety, new points will be added to the checklist to make the inspections more robust,” she says. The importance of the training is highlighted by Brig. Gen Ali Ahmed Khan, Director-General of the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence Department. “Electrical short circuits are the main cause of fires in the garment sector. This training will better equip the fire service to reduce this risk and ensure compliance with national codes and standards on building and worker safety, not only in garment factories but across all industries.”

Funded by the US Department of Labor, the Improving Fire and General Building Safety in Bangladesh project focused on improving fire and building safety in the Ready Made Garment sector. The project was carried out in close collaboration and coordination with relevant national and international stakeholders and partners and is expected to lead to enhanced enforcement of relevant fire and general building safety laws and regulations — consistent with international labour, fire and building standards and good practices.

The Bangladesh project is part of ILO’s Labour Administration, Labour Inspection and Occupational Safety and Health Branch  efforts at building a global culture of prevention in the workplace.

Source:  ILO Newsroom, DHAKA, Bangladesh 

http://www.ilo.org/safework/whatsnew/WCMS_543333/lang–en/index.htm

 

Protests in Bangladesh Shake a Global Workshop for Apparel

Jhorna Begum’s husband, Jahangir Alam, a local labor leader, was detained after garment industry protests last month in Bangladesh. She had spoken with him only briefly since court.

At first, the police knocked. Then they tried to kick the door down.

Protests over low wages had erupted at dozens of garment factories in Bangladesh, one of the top suppliers of clothing for global brands like H&M and Gap, and the officers had come to question Jahangir Alam, the president of a local trade union in Ashulia, a suburb of the capital, Dhaka. They told his wife that he would be back within a few hours.

That was a month ago.

Instead, his wife said, Mr. Alam has sat in a jail cell so dark he could not see his own hands. She said they had spoken briefly when she finally tracked him down to a Dhaka court.

Mr. Alam is one of at least 14 labor activists and workers who have been detained since the unrest began in December, according to arrest records. The demonstrations disrupted work at factories that supply clothing to global fashion companies like Inditex of Spain, owner of the Zara brand, and PVH, which owns the Tommy Hilfiger brand. The police say the unrest has led to the suspension or firing of roughly 1,500 workers, many of whom took part in the protests.

The police have accused the activists of inciting vandalism and other crimes, and several factories have pressed charges against many of their workers.

But labor rights groups say the government is trying to scare workers into silence by detaining innocent people. They say the detentions, and the looming risk of more arrests, are the biggest setback for workers since the collapse of Rana Plaza, a building that housed garment factories, where more than 1,100 people died in 2013.

Workers leaving a Ha-Meem Group factory for a lunch break. Bangladesh is the second-largest ready-made garment exporter in the world after China.

That tragedy, one of the worst industrial disasters in history, exposed major safety hazards at factories in Bangladesh, which churns out a steady stream of low-cost goods. And it prompted some of the world’s biggest brands to push for better conditions for the workers who make their clothes.

By some measures, conditions have improved. But the brands now say the arrests and firings could undermine the progress they have made.

In letters to Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, and other officials, retailers urged the government to take action to protect workers, including addressing wage issues that had led to the protests. The minimum wage in Bangladesh is 32 cents an hour.

They stopped short, though, of threatening further action.

“Such situations damage the industry’s reputation and confidence levels, which we, together with the government and social partners, are all working so hard to bolster,” wrote Rob Wayss, the executive director of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The accord, a coalition of retailers, is dedicated to improving safety for the country’s garment workers.

Gap, in a separate letter, said it was troubled by the recent events, and urged officials to ensure that no one was targeted “solely because of any association with a trade union or other group.”

Protesters at a rally this month in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Garment workers have been demonstrating since December to protest low wages.

The prime minister’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Bangladesh exports billions of dollars’ worth of clothes each year, making it the world’s second-largest exporter of ready-made garments after China. But its factories are efficient for some of the same reasons that they have been deadly: overcrowded buildings, limited oversight and a government that has historically repressed workers’ efforts to organize and fight for better conditions.

In the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse, retailers formed two coalitions dedicated to improving the lives of workers: the accord, led by H&M, and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which includes Gap and Walmart.

Both groups have created safety standards and mechanisms to enforce them, although the accord, with a legally binding arbitration provision, is largely seen as the stronger of the two. The alliance has no such clause, but it can impose financial penalties and expel members that violate its terms.

Both groups point to progress, like the installation of fire doors and regular safety inspections. But as international attention has waned in the years since Rana Plaza, worker rights groups have expressed concern that the gains could be lost.

“Now the spotlight is off Bangladesh,” said Richard Appelbaum, a labor and worker rights expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The government is responding more typically as it would have responded several years ago, if it could have.”

The Al-Hamra Garments factory, right, has an exterior staircase. The 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building, in which about 1,100 people died, prompted retailers to press for better working conditions.

The police came for Mr. Alam at night, said his wife, Jhorna Begum. When he did not return after several days, Ms. Begum scraped together about $12 to pay a lawyer who helped track him down to a local jail. The couple saw each other briefly when Mr. Alam appeared in court, just long enough for them to shout at each other across a crowded room.

With two children at home, Ms. Begum said she could not afford to fight his case. She recently returned to work as a machine operator for the Palmal Group, another garment maker.

“We live hand to mouth, waiting for the paycheck at the end of the month,” Ms. Begum said, tears in her eyes. “I don’t know when he’ll get out — how am I supposed to run my family without him?”

While Ms. Begum was willing to give her name to a reporter, many garment industry workers are afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals by the government. Labor rights workers suspect that agents of the government or factory owners ransacked a number of union offices after the protests. And the death of Aminul Islam, a labor activist who was found tortured and killed in 2012, is still fresh in many minds.

The complaints against the 14 people who have been arrested also include charges that could cover more than 1,000 possible suspects — a tool that can help the police arrest people in the future, according to labor lawyers. Some of the people who were arrested, for example, had been named in an unrelated political violence case that has been open since 2015.“When they find someone they want to put in jail, they enter that person’s name into the case,” said Jyotirmoy Barua, a lawyer based in Dhaka, who is representing protesters who have been charged with conspiring to harm the state. “The cases are creating unrest, fear.”This month, protesters gathered in Dhaka, chanting and holding up signs as a plainclothes officer took notes nearby.Abul Hossain, the president of the Dhaka chapter of the Workers’ Party of Bangladesh, said workers were frustrated by stagnant wages in a country whose cost of living had risen over the past few years. Wages have risen only twice in the past decade, even as inflation has risen as much as 10 percent a year, according to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.

Ms. Begum holding photos of her husband, now in detention. With two children at home, she said she could not afford to fight his case, and had returned to work at a garment factory. Credit

Workers expected their pay to be reviewed last year by a government wage board that can meet every three years. When that did not happen, they started protesting.

Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, a trade association that represents factory owners, said factories, too, had come under pressure: Costs have risen 17.5 percent annually for the last two years, he said, even as global clothing prices have decreased.

Mr. Rahman added that while global retail brands had called on Bangladeshi factories to improve safety standards and wages, they had resisted paying higher prices to help compensate for the increased costs.

He also said that fewer than 1,500 employees had been fired, and that some had returned to work.

Both Gap and H&M said that they supported a regular wage review mechanism to ensure stability in the future, and that they were monitoring the situation closely.

Labor advocates, though, say the global companies should be doing more, since billion-dollar brands like H&M have a lot of leverage with local factories and the government.

A spokesman for H&M, Patrick Shaner, said in an email that the company had no plans to change its sourcing arrangements.

Other companies that buy clothes from the factories that are currently pressing charges, including Abercrombie & Fitch, PVH and American Eagle Outfitters, did not respond to requests for comment.

“At a certain point in time you have to wonder just how much the brands and retailers will tolerate,” said Scott Nova, the executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights group based in Washington that is among the most active nonprofits working in Bangladesh’s garment industry. “They can tell the factories to drop these charges.”

Sourcehttp://www.nytimes.com

By Rachel Abrams and Maher Sattar

 

ILO’s Asia-Pacific labour conference calls for more efforts to achieve equitable economic growth with decent work

The 16th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) concluded with a call for governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations in the region to do more to promote inclusive growth, social justice and decent work.

At the closing ceremony of the APRM, delegates agreed a “Bali Declaration” which outlines priorities for policies and actions at national level and by the ILO.

“Governments, employers and workers in the region agree that action to promote decent work fosters inclusive growth and social justice, stimulates economic dynamism and innovation, and drives sustainable development,” the Declaration states.

The policy targets outlined include strengthening the application of fundamental labour standards and the ratification and implementation of ILO Conventions in the region, and mandates the ILO to run a promotional campaign to support this.

Additional measures to close gender gaps are also outlined, including measures to break down barriers to women’s labour force participation and advancement, promotion of equal pay for work of equal value, and extended measures for maternity protection and balancing work and care responsibilities.

On labour migration, Governments, workers and employers agreed to work on enhancing policies in accordance with international labour standards, especially those concerning fair recruitment principles. These include not charging recruitment fees or related costs to workers and allowing them to keep their own identity and travel documents. Protection measures should be provided, including arrangements to improve portability of skills and provide social security. Delegates also agreed to safeguard migrant workers’ freedom of movement, their right to terminate employment or change employers, and to return freely to their countries of origin.

Welcoming the Bali Declaration, the ILO’s Director-General Guy Ryder told delegates that “implementing the Declaration can change and improve the lives of many millions of workers and their families. It can begin the task of generating the 249 million decent jobs that need to be generated in this region if we are to implement Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Declaration also outlines policy actions related to the creation of more decent jobs, responding to the impact of technology on employers and workers, increasing action against child and forced labour, reversing widening inequalities and sharing productivity improvements, and building resilience to conflicts and disasters.

Other actions include recognizing and maximizing the decent work potential of Global Supply Chains and the opportunities arising from investment, trade and multinational enterprises, improving social protection, social dialogue and tripartism, and strengthening labour market institutions, including labour inspection.

Delegates asked the ILO to report back on progress towards achieving the Bali Declaration every two years.

The ILO is the United Nations specialized agency dealing with work-related issues. The 16th APRM was attended by some 350 delegates – including 24 ministers and vice-ministers – representing governments and workers’ and employers’ organizations from 37 countries in Asia, the Pacific and Arab States region. It was the largest of the last four APRM meetings, which are held every four years.

Source:  ILO Media Resources

http://www.ilo.org/global/meetings-and-events/regional-meetings/asia/aprm-16/media-centre/WCMS_537828/lang–en/index.htm

Noriyuki Suzuki: “Violations of workers’ rights remain a challenge in the Asia- Pacific region”

Noriyuki Suzuki, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia/Pacific

The General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP), Noriyuki Suzuki, discusses the decent work challenges the unions face in his region Fair migration and the role of unions in the implementation of the ILO’s Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy in Asia Pacific are particular priorities for him.

ACTRAV INFO:   Building a future of Decent Work in Asia and the Pacific is one of the major challenges in your region. What role can the trade unions play to achieve this challenge in Asia and the Pacific?

Noriyuki Suzuki: The specific role of trade unions is to strengthen labour market institutions to overcome the prevailing inequalities in the region.

Globalisation has contributed to fast economic growth in the region and globally. In the past decades, the developing Asia recorded an annual growth rate of 7%, PPP based GDP per capita grew between1990 and2010 from $1,602 to $4,982 (PPP 2005), and nearly 700 million people step out of poverty (US$1.25 a day). However, the threshold of US$1.25 as poverty line may not be adequate.  Looking at the distributive aspect of regional national economies, the picture is quite different from what we had expected from globalisation; inequality is pervasive in Asia and the Pacific.

Wages have not been catching up with productivity growth and expenditure on social security remains low. There are major deficits with respect to taxation and fiscal structures. Employment structures have been drastically changing affecting full-time and fixed term employment. What’s more, the labour share has been constantly declining, while the GINI coefficient is constantly on the rise.

This trend can only be reversed by establishing a balanced tripartism based on constructive industrial relations. A major challenge here are the trade union rights in the region. According to the ITUC Global Rights Index, the simple average score of the Right Index in our region stands at 4.2, showing systematic violation of rights. Moreover, less than 50% of the population are covered by ILO Conventions 87 and 98. These are the realities. The only way forward is to build up workers’ power’ through mobilising more and more workers as decided at the 3rd ITUC Congress in Berlin. Organising and unity are key to realising decent work in the region.

ACTRAV INFO: One item on the agenda of the 16th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting is “Fair Migration with a Focus on Recruitment”. What are your expectations regarding this discussion?

Noriyuki Suzuki: Some months ago, I witnessed in Kathmandu a crowd of young people at the passport centre, and hundreds of people at the immigration desk Lack of decent job opportunities is one of the reasons for such forced migration. Except for a few specific professional categories, most people do not want to be separated from their family.

These people dream to have a higher income, but workers are frequently subject to unequal treatment and opportunities, as well as discriminatory behaviour.

In accordance with ILO Conventions 97 and 143concerning migrant workers, and the General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment which were recently endorsed by the ILO Governing Body, trade unions are playing a pivotal role in protecting and promoting the interests of migrant workers in ensuring that migration policies support development in countries of origin, and uphold the principles of equal opportunity and treatment, as well as full recognition of migrant workers’ rights in destination countries.

ACTRAV INFO: In your view, what role can trade unions play to implement the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy in Asia and the Pacific?

Noriyuki Suzuki: Multinational Corporations (MNCs) are drivers of globalisation and play a dominant role in the world economy. There are over 63,000 multinational corporations in the world with 700,000 affiliates, and they represent two thirds of global trade and 80% of global investment. They provide employment to more than 80 million workers. When supply chains are taken into account, that number becomes much higher.

They are undoubtedly engines for national and global economic growth; however, we witness, throughout supply chains, frequent violations of trade union rights, denial of freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively, and in some cases, extremely bad occupational health and safety (OSH) standards, which have led to tragedies like the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh.

The ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy is an important tripartite agreement in terms of wages, employment policy, OSH, and the promotion of social dialogue and fundamental rights at work – in compliance with relevant ILO Conventions. We will continue to stress the importance of companies ‘compliance with the Declaration though our ongoing supply chain campaigns, and publicise cases of violations within our regional and national industrial relations systems.

Source:  Mamadou Souare, ILO ACTRAv Media Centre

http://www.ilo.org/actrav/media-center/news/WCMS_537312/lang–en/index.htm

Rise in zero-hours contracts, gig economy and unreliable pay have fed revolt, says ILO Director General Guy Ryder

The ILO wants to see minimum guaranteed hours, better social protections and stronger collective bargaining.

Politicians around the world risk giving more traction to nationalistic movements if they continue to ignore the growing numbers of workers getting a “raw deal” from globalisation, the head of the UN’s labour agency has warned.

The Director General of the International Labour Organization (“ILO”), Guy Ryder, described Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election and the UK’s vote for Brexit as “the revolt of the dispossessed” and gave a damning assessment of the establishment’s failure to offer an alternative to protectionism.

British-born Ryder said governments had been too quick to focus on headline figures that flattered the state of labour markets since the global financial crisis.  In so doing they had failed to scratch below the surface into a world of zero-hours contracts, underemployment and unreliable incomes, he said, as the ILO released research showing a rise in such non-standard forms of employment.

What do we mean when we talk about non-standard employment?

Here’s a useful breakdown: More about our latest report: https://t.co/pyW6O57lVK pic.twitter.com/9IbXCfLpJh

– ILO (@ilo) November 14, 2016

“The societies we all live in are distributing the benefits of globalisation and economic processes extraordinarily unfairly and people think they are getting a raw deal,” Ryder told the Guardian.

Speaking days after Trump stunned the world with his victory over Hillary Clinton, the ILO chief highlighted the common ground between the Republican candidate’s supporters and those who voted for the UK to leave the EU.

“It is the people who feel they haven’t benefited from globalisation and from the EU, from the way things are organised. This is the revolt of the dispossessed in that regard,” he said.

“And the point here is that feeling, that frustration, that disillusionment, I think is very much generated from people’s experience of work. Their exclusion from work, or their insertion in labour markets in conditions, which they find unacceptable.”

The ILO’s mandate centers’ on ensuring what it calls “decent work”.  But based on its own findings, the UN agency is facing an uphill battle. Casual forms of work more common in the developing world are being replicated in advanced economies – the “gig economy” – as on-demand services such as Uber and Deliveroo grow.

The ILO report published on Monday finds temporary work, agency work, precarious self-employment and other non-standard forms of employment have become more widespread.

On the ground, that translates into downward pressure on earnings, unreliable working hours and lower access to workplace benefits.

It comes back to the “raw deal” that Ryder talks about.

“If you count somebody on a zero-hours contract as being in work that helps the headline figures. If you look at their life you know that it is not the type of quality, decent work that I think we are all pursuing,” says Ryder, who has headed the ILO since 2012, having started his career at the TUC in Britain.

“People want to know how it can be different and the fact of the matter is, it can be different but it requires us to put the world of work and these tough labour market issues back on the table from which I think they have been unwisely removed by policymakers in recent years.”

His comments reflect the tendency among ministers to focus on record employment levels and falling unemployment, while largely ignoring that wages have stagnated, people have felt pressured into self-employment and millions say they want to work more hours than they can get.

Ryder believes the UK’s vote to leave the EU should be a wake-up call.

“If you take Brexit vote as a faithful reflection of the mood of people, it is not an expression of contentment and satisfaction with a full employment, ‘I’m doing well, I’m getting ahead’, workforce. The message is: ‘We are living this and it doesn’t feel very nice,’” he says.

Again, there are parallels with the US where ILO researchers found 10% of the workforce had irregular and on-call work schedules, with the lowest-income workers the hardest hit.

The agency wants old systems brought up to date to reflect today’s world of work.

Its recommendations for improving the quality of non-standard employment include plugging regulatory gaps to ensure workers are treated equally whatever type of contract they have. The ILO also wants to see minimum guaranteed hours, better social protection and stronger collective bargaining. That includes expanding unions to represent the growing number of workers in non-standard forms of employment.

Ryder also stresses the need for more equal treatment of migrant workers. “If you take seriously the enforcement of minimum conditions, if you take seriously the notion of equal treatment … you disarm and detoxify the labour market worries about undercutting local workers and at the same time you do the right thing by migrant workers.”

The ILO director concedes his agency is asking for a lot. But failure to act will leave voters looking to the “wrong place” for solutions, he says. That warning echoes growing concerns that the nationalist sentiment that boosted Trump will also come to the fore at upcoming votes in Italy, France, the Netherlands and Germany.

“In generic terms, I think people think they have a binary choice in life at the moment,” says Ryder. The options were “more of the same” with an acceptance that inequality would rise further or “defensive, protectionist, nationalistic” movements rejecting the status quo.

“We have to construct something which is different from both of those two poles and to demonstrate, or to convince people, that there are different ways. That we can manage our labour markets,” he says.

“But middle ground between the two binary options requires the hard work of doing some fairly hard engineering of labour markets.”

Furthermore, the establishment must work hard to regain people’s trust, he adds. “People are not necessarily looking to the established institutions or political parties or international organisations, of which I include the ILO, in the belief that we have credible responses. So we have to up our game in that regard.”

Ryder has just been given the backing of his agency to do just that. Last week the director general was re-elected for a second term with support from all three branches of the tripartite agency: workers’ representatives, employers and governments.

Alongside curbing the rise in insecure jobs and the ILO’s work on tackling child labour and forced labour, Ryder is also pushing the agency to anticipate future trends.

He believes the big drivers of change are technology, globalisation, demographics and the need to align jobs and job creation with fighting climate change. All are being explored under a “future of work” programme marking the ILO’s centenary in 2019.

So for an agency that has been through the second world war, the cold war, the fall of communism and the rise of globalisation, the focus now shifts to robots, global warming and the gig economy. But the motivation remains the same and as the world digests the latest political shock, it is perhaps unsurprising that Ryder highlights the ILO’s roots.

“Our historic mandate, and it came after the First World War, is based on the notion that if you want to preserve peace and stability in the world, you have to promote social justice and that has to begin in the world of work.”

Source:  theguardian

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/nov/14/economic-frustration-spawned-trump-brexit-warns-ilo-chief

“Decent work and social justice – the APRM must bring a change in mindset”

Ms Tomoko Nishimoto, Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific

We all work; it is one of the few experiences shared by all humanity. But it is a mistake to believe that the importance of work lies just in providing material benefits. Work should offer dignity and importance, a chance to make a contribution to society. But, too often, it does not.

In a few days Government ministers, policy makers, employers and workers representatives will meet to debate some of the key issues currently affecting ordinary working people in our region.

The ILO’s Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) only takes place every four years. It will bring together more than 45 countries from Asia, the Pacific and the Arab states, offering a rare opportunity for the key actors shaping employment policy and practice to get together and co-ordinate their actions.

They are meeting at a time of great global uncertainty. The old economic dogma, that ‘a rising tide raises all boats’ is now widely discredited. Even in Asia Pacific – where economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of absolute poverty – it is widely accepted that unguided growth alone has not been enough. Inequality and vulnerable employment remain doggedly persistent in the region and in some places are getting worse.

This should be a concern for us all. The news headlines remind us almost every day of what happens when ordinary people feel electorally and economically disenfranchised, although 97 years ago the ILO’s Constitution put it just as succinctly as any newspaper editor; “poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere”.

I believe the international policy debate is now shifting to reflect this. Inclusivity and sustainability are watchwords for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which UN member states endorsed just over a year ago. What’s more, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) give specific attention to the role of Decent Work; it is the focus of SDG 8 and the principles run through many of the other 16 goals and their targets.

This shift in emphasis, from the quantitative to the qualitative, creates a need for fresh ideas that can shape a growth path that is inclusive and job-rich, rather than fostering inequality, uncertainty, and even fear.

But, to make this shift we must also change our mindsets and our definition of progress. We must position growth as a driver of social justice, not as an end in itself.

“The future we get will be shaped by the policies we adapt and the strategies we implement at meetings such as this”

The APRM offers a timely opportunity to do just that.

Our keynote debate will focus on inclusive growth and social justice. It will look at how we can shape the riptide of globalization – rather than be shaped by it – so that it delivers the equality and social justice we need.

Plenary debates will look at the trends and challenges we face and discuss the policies needed to create decent jobs and foster equity. They will also highlight the crucial role of social dialogue; it is no exaggeration to say that unless we embed social dialogue in our political and social cultures none of our goals will be achievable.

Another session will be devoted to skills and training. This is vital. Skills open doors to brighter futures, in particular for young people and groups who are often marginalized in development – women, indigenous peoples, those with disabilities. Skills and training allow new technology to create jobs. They form foundations which employers can use to create innovative, successful businesses.

Delegates will have the chance to discuss migration, in particular the importance of a fair, correctly regulated recruitment process.

There will also be a special session on the role of multinational enterprises (MNCs) and their interaction with social policies in the region, in the context of the ILO’s Tripartite Declaration of Principles on MNCs.

We will also review the results of the Asia Pacific Decent Work Decade (2006-16), through which the ILO member States in this region committed to promoting decent work for all their people. Our analysis shows that good progress was made, but that the Decade should be regarded as a foundation, not a conclusion of this process.

In particular more needs to be done to promote internationally-recognized labour standards, stronger labour market institutions, fair labour migration, social protection and gender equality. We need to work harder on the transition from informal to formal employment, and on the effects of climate change.

So the APRM must act as a call for action, leading to solid policies.

Ultimately, whether Asia Pacific finds a future that is inclusive and defined by decent work will be a political decision. The future we get will be shaped by the policies we adopt and the strategies we implement at meetings such as this.

Source: ILO Newsroom – Decent work and social justice – the APRM must bring a change in mindset

Pacific Workers Unions on the move

The Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Lautafi Fio Purcell, opened a key training involving workers’ Union representatives from the region at Orator Hotel, Apia Samoa on Monday.

The three-day meeting is being organised by the International Labour Organization (I.L.O) Office and the Samoa Workers Congress. “I encourage committing and increasing the promotion of youth and women in union activities,” said Minister Lautafi.  “I encourage you to continue the momentum and commitment in order to be truly active in strengthening the capacities in unions and the Pacific, and that the workers are well represented, their rights are respected and their voices are heard.”

The training is designed to strengthened capacities of the unions in Pacific by promoting freedom of association and decent work through effective organizing strategies and leadership skills. This will contribute to:

  • Increased understanding of the re-established Samoa Workers Congress to effectively make contributions to policy reform agenda of the social partners
  • Strengthen trade union structures through the promotion of freedom of association and organizing campaigns
  • Enhance the capacities of union to develop negotiators and educators  as leaders to promote collective bargaining, decent work and foster communication exchange and networking amongst unions for organizing and actions for decent work in Pacific  The training is being attended by young union activists and leaders in selected countries of the Pacific region – members of National Executive committee /Women’s Committee of national or industrial unions, and staff involved in organising and education.

Participants are from unions in Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

The training is facilitated by the I.L.O Workers Specialist; Jotika Sushil Gounder from Regional Office for Asia Pacific (ROAP) in Bangkok, with assistance from I.L.O National Coordinator for Samoa; Tomasi Peni, and the president of Samoa Workers Congress; Gatoloai Tilianamua Afamasaga.

Source:  ILO-ACTRAV

By Natasha Schmidt

“Hotel Housekeepers Stand Up Around the World for Rights, Recognition and Safe Work in Global Action Week”

Demonstration organized by FSPM in Bandung, Indonesia, on November 2nd

Hotel housekeepers and their unions in 34 countries and over 50 cities around the world held a variety of actions to highlight their fight for rights, recognition and better working conditions during the IUF’s 3rd Hotel Housekeepers Global Week of Action from October 31 to November 6. Many of the actions this year highlighted the central importance of preventing sexual harassment on the job, a constant threat with which housekeepers have to contend.  The varied actions included workshops and seminars with experts and awareness-raising meetings with workers, management and the public, including leaf letting at airports. Unions also called for specific language in collective agreements on protecting workers from sexual harassment.

Hotel housekeepers at Nyborg Strand Hotel (Denmark) show support to the Global Week of Action

Everywhere, unions demanded improved working conditions, greater job security and more respect for housekeepers at the workplace. Unions also made use of the Global Week of Action to show to workers the important results of the ongoing campaign in bringing about concrete improvements in working conditions and as an organizing tool for building bargaining power in hotels

Source:  IUF News Report

 

UK Employment Tribunal: ‘self-employed’ Uber drivers are workers, with rights

The London Employment Tribunal, in a decision with major implications for the ‘gig economy’, has ruled that Uber drivers are workers, not ‘self-employed’, and as workers they have enforceable rights, including a guaranteed minimum wage, paid breaks, and holiday pay.  The decision came in response to two test cases brought on behalf of drivers by the IUF-Affiliated GMB in June.

The union’s legal director described the decision as a victory ‘that will have a hugely positive impact on over 30,000 drivers in London and across England and Wales and for thousands more in other industries where bogus self-employment is rife’.

Swaziland: Sugar Workers Pay the Cost of King Mswati’s Greed

Thousands of workers in Swaziland’s sugar industry, which exports hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sugar to Europe and within Africa and is dominated by Swazi King Mswati III, face gruelling and unhealthy working conditions, poverty wages and violent suppression of effort to organise unions according to a new ITUC Report, King Mswati’s Gold released late last month.

The report includes widespread evidence of forced evictions of rural communities to make way for sugarcane plantations, deaths and herbicide-caused illness in the fields, child labour, dismissals and harassment of union representatives, and work schedules of up to 60 hours per week without overtime. Women who become pregnant are excluded from the industry, often resulting in abject poverty.

King Mswati’s autocratic rule over the country means that it has one of the worst global reputations for repression of workers’ rights while the King himself and a small coterie around him amass increasing wealth in one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Mswati is believed to be worth around US$200 million, while sugar cane workers earn as little as $5.30 per day.

While many sugarcane producers are certified under the “Fairtrade” system, the ITUC research which was done with the help of local researchers, found a series of serious violations of Fairtrade’s Small Producer Organisation standards, and weaknesses in the standards themselves and the private inspection systems which are supposed to ensure compliance. The ITUC is in discussion with Fairtrade about how it should change the system to ensure that the trade is indeed fair.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said, “Swaziland’s autocratic ruling elite are ripping off their own people, using laws on sedition, subversion and anti-terrorism to suppress workers. King Mswati himself keeps a firm grip on the sugar sector, not for the benefit of the people but just to increase his personal wealth. This example of egregious greed underlines that there is no substitute for the international rule of law in supply chains, and that political and economic pressure from the European Union and Swaziland’s African trading partners are needed to ensure that the whole country can benefit from the wealth of the sugar sector.”

World Day for Decent Work & FTUC $4 National Minimum Wage Campaign

World Day for Decent Work & $4 National Minimum Wage Campaign

On 7th October of every year since 2008 the International Trades Union Congress has been organising the World Day for Decent Work (“WDDW”). It is a day for mobilisation for all trade unions across the globe, from Fiji in the east to Hawaii in the west.  Every year there are hundreds of activities in hundred countries, carried out by millions of people around the globe and on 8th October 2016 the Fiji Trades Union Congress organised the WDDW simultaneously with their $4 National Minimum Wage Campaign with the theme “End Corporate Greed & Decent Work Means Decent Pay”.  The activities were carried out by the affiliated union members across the country from the old capital of Levuka to the capital city of Suva.  Members of the affiliated unions took to the street not only to seek support from the public on the FTUC petition to the government on the $4 National Minimum Wage campaign but also to enlighten the public on worker’s rights, decent work and decent pay.

The day’s activity included setting up information centers at the seven various locations (Suva, Lautoka, Nadi, Nausori, Labasa and Levuka) with the distribution of flyers, posters, book marks and brochure to members of the public.  The members of the public were also informed and explained on the meaning of decent work which involves favourable conditions for work that is productive and delivers a justifiable wage, it also means security in the workplace and social protection for families and equal opportunity and treatment for all women and men.

As stressed in our press release of 8th October the current minimum wage of $2.32 must be reviewed to at least $4 an hour.  The Current Minimum Wage is grossly insufficient and well below the poverty line.  This actually condemns workers to extreme poverty and does nothing to uplift human dignity.  Workers merely want an increase of $13.44 a day and this was expressed in the FTUC campaign which was supported by the International Labour Organisation.  The campaign which began at 9am and ended at 1pm saw volunteers and union members alike joined hands in expressing the need to raise the national minimum wage by wearing a $4 minimum wage t-shirt.  The outreach began from within the city area, though to the markets, bus station and back road where in some towns included residential properties.  The campaign was conducted simultaneously throughout the country and at the end of the day saw a total collection of 7,776 signatures with more signed petitions still to be collected by the FTUC.

Information Centre, Labasa Fiji
Labasa Team , with Satoshi Sasaki (Officer in Charge ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries)

Nausori Team in Action

“WORLD DAY FOR DECENT WORK “

Fiji Trades Union Congress in Collaboration with International Labour Organisation and all workers around the world mark the “World Day for Decent Work”. Decent work means productive work in which rights are protected, which generates an adequate income, with adequate social protection. It also means sufficient work, in the sense that all should have full access to income-earning opportunities. It marks the high road to economic and social development, a road in which employment, income and social protection can be achieved without compromising workers rights and social standards. Decent work promotes human dignity. In doing so it is based on the ILO Declaration of Fundermental Principles and Rights at Work. The Declaration is a pledge by all member states to respect, promote and realize in good faith the principles and rights relating to:

  • Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining
  • The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour
  • The effective abolition of child labour
  • The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation

The recently adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by 193 UN Member States pledges to build a better and just world for all. Goal number 1: is to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere.” Goal Number 8: is “to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”

Fiji is a member of the UN and ILO and is a party to the Declaration and the SDG’s. The Government has an obligation to deliver on both the eradication of poverty and decent work for all. The World Day for Decent Work must serve as a reminder to all including Government of the commitment we have made to the International Community. A just minimum wage is definitely a good start to eradicating poverty and working towards achieving decent work for all. While employment creation is important, the quality of employment created is even more important. Jobs that don’t provide financial security and dignity at work are not worth the effort. Decent Work is achievable only when we have a strong mechanism for social dialogue by Government, Employers and Workers working together in good faith. Tripartite consultations and collective bargaining promotes a positive labour-management relations enviroment which promotes change, innovation and competitiveness.

The Current Minimum Wage is grossly insufficient and well below the poverty line. This actually condems workers to extreme poverty and does nothing to uplift human dignity. The National Employment Scheme (NEC) undermines the minimum wage to $60 a week, without any other benefits. While this scheme is to create some sort of employment for young people, it actually promotes extreme exploitation of workers and is being abused by some employers. Clearly wage rates for workers are in a “race to the bottom.” This trend needs to be reversed if we are at all serious about Decent Work and eradication of poverty.

The current minimum wage of $2.32 must be reviewed upwards to at least $4 an hour. Workers merely want an increase of $13.44 a day. We note that the Parliament has voted themselves an increase of $200 to $400 a day in allowances alone. We also note that this is the second increase for Palimentarians since 2014 when all salaries were raise substanially, ranging from 60% to 300%. In addition to this, Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executive Officers of all Government owned Enterprises received massive increases in their salaries and other benefits, in some cases these increases have range from a 100% to 600%. Workers in the meantime received a 32 cents increase an hour in mimimum wage from $2 to $2.32 cents an hour. Civil servants and most workers in the private sectors have had no wage adjustment in the past six to eight years. This is grossly unfair to say the least. The poorest in our society get nothing or peanuts while those at the top award themselves huge increases. There is no justification for such conduct on part of Government and this is an opportune time for Government to act in addressing the inequlity in our society. The gap between the rich and the poor has increased and is evident in Fiji today.

FTUC will be marking the day with a campaign urging the public to sign its petition to Government to demand justice and a fair minimum wage. I invite the public to join the FTUC in its campaign for a decent wage and addressing the serious issue of poverty and inequality in Fiji.

ILO- ACTRAV/FTUC – National Minimum Wage and National Consultation Workshops

The National Minimum Wage and National Consultation Workshops were conducted in five major centers throughout Fiji namely, Nadi, Levuka, Labasa, Lautoka and concluding its final consultation in its capital city Suva on 4th October 2016. These consultations were held between 26th August till 4th October 2016.

The objectives of the consultations were to:

• update on labour law reform
• identify workers issues on industries in regards to current work conditions and practice
• focus on organising and update on collective bargaining
• campaign on FTUC $4 National Minimum Wage
• current status and plans for field activity on World Day for Decent Work which is to be held on 8th October 2016 throughout Fiji

In each of the consultation workshops the participants were divided and allocated into work groups and assigned practical exercises.

The objective of the group excersies were to educate and increase participants understanding of the ERP 2007, this was done through referencing of the Employment Relations Promulgations. The participants also identified and listed current issues and challenges faced by them at their work place in their different organisations and industries.

In one of these consultations Fiji Trades Union Congress National Secretary Mr Secretary Felix Anthony provided a brief background to the participants on how Employment Relations Promulgation came into effect. He also spoke on the Tripartite Agreement which involves representative from the Government, Employers and Workers. In addition he addressed and spoke on the level of intervention and authority from the International labour organization (ILO). The recent amendment of the employment relations promulgation 4/2015 and 11/2016, International Labour Organization standards, convention 87 – freedom of association and protection of the right to organize convention and convention 98 – right to organize and collective bargaining convention. Mr Anthony also spoke on the Decrees particularly the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree 2011 and changes associated with the decree, he stressed that the labour reforms and review processes are done to strengthen enforcement. In conclusion Mr. Anthony strongly emphasized on the need to be continuously organising the organized and unorganized and also the need to follow up on the members. He shared his message on the need to be 100% organized and encouraging union engagement in Fiji and at the work place.

Ms Moushmi Naicker during the consultation workshop in Suva emphasized to the participants their role as union members and as workers not to only support this campaign but create extensive awareness within their workplace, through colleagues, friends and families the important of the campaign. She also added that “Decent work means a Decent Pay”.

The Consultations throughout the country ended on a high note with members being able to understand and know their rights and workers. Being able to reference to the ERP and they were able to identify unfair work practices and more importantly it created awareness on their legal right.

web-update-on-consultation-workshops-photos

Gender pay gap persists at 16 per cent as Australia marks Equal Pay Day

8th September 2016 marks Equal Pay Day in Australia—which should probably be renamed Unequal Pay Day. The wages gap between men and women is still a stubbornly high 16.2 per cent. The occasion coincides with John Howard’s much criticised remarks to the Press Club that women will never achieve equal representation in Parliament because ‘they play a significantly greater part of fulfilling the caring role in our communities, which inevitably places some limits on their capacity’. The ACTU has long been campaigning for equal pay and equal rights for women.

Organizing Workers in the Informal Economy – ILO ACTRAV Policy Brief

The aim of this policy brief is to assist workers’ organizations in understanding and tackling the injustices and decent work deficits associated with employment in the informal economy. It provides information and proposes strategies that can be used to organize, protect and promote the rights and interests of informal economy workers. organising-workers-in-the-informal-economy

FTUC National Minimum Wage Campaign gains momentum

The FTUC National Minimum Wage Campaign  for $4 FJD from the current $2-32 FJD  is gaining momentum as   our advertisements promoting awareness has now been aired on various media in Fiji. This initiative has been made  possible through support  from ILO ACTRAV  which allowed much needed  awareness materials to be produced and distributed as a result of  training held on May 4th & 5th in Fiji, cordinated by Ms Jotika Sharma, ILO Specialist on Workers Activities and consultant Bro  Raghwan.

National Secretary FTUC speaks at the campaign launch workshop in Nadi

” We need to reach out to the workers in the field,  and  media – especially television, and  radio are the most effective  forms. The current minimum wage is grossly inadequate.” says the National Secretary Mr Felix Anthony. In our ongoing field visits,  workers have brought  to our attention their continued sufferings and inability to put food on the table, coupled by  basic violations of their working rights.

” We are conducting national level consultations with workers on the minimum wage and  we have planned visits to all major towns and centers in Fiji. So far we are pleased with the level of interaction with the workers on this crucial campaign, they are becoming more aware of their right to freedom of association  and  to a fair and just wage.”

Here is the audio version of the promotion of the  minimum wage.

Click on  the  visual material  below for the promotion of the national minimum wage campaign.

The FTUC continues to receive  signatures on a daily basis in support of this national campaign. Forms are available at all union offices and  can be obtained from the FTUC office by emailing ftuc1@connect.com.fj or calling on 3315377.

ILO- ACTRAV/FTUC Workshop Promoting Trade Union Education for Workers’ Rights, Organising and Decent Work

Labour education has historically played a vital role in the development of the trade union organisations and promoting union actions and still is an important means for securing workers’ rights and empowerment on issues in the world of work and for organizing in particular. FTUC in collaboration with ILO ACTRAV conducted a 2 day workshop from the 1st to the 2nd August 2016 at the Capricorn Hotel in Nadi, Fiji. The workshop also focused on the role of International Labour Organisation Standards in promoting enabling environment for organizing and labour education and to strengthen capacities of the unions in Fiji for organizing and promoting decent work.

The training programme was aimed to:

  1. Develop educators’ capacities to implement effective education programs;
  2. Develop a trade union education policy; and
  3. Promote communication exchange & networking amongst unions for labour education, organizing and actions for decent work in Fiji.

In Fiji, a number of challenges are still faced by the trade unions, starting with inadequate respect for Tripartite, social dialogue, Freedom of Association (FoA) and Collective Bargaining rights. However, Fiji is currently moving forward in implementing Freedom of Association, workers’ rights, Collective Bargaining and Decent Work, with the current review in labour laws.

Thus there is a need to train trade union leaders, especially Youth and Women, to strengthen their capacities for organizing in representing and negotiating workers interests.

JUST MINIMUM WAGE FOR ALL

The FTUC Biennial Conference held in Nadi on 7th May 2016 launched a campaign to raise the National Minimum Wage to $4 an hour. While the FTUC is mindful that the $4 Minimum wage will still peg workers below the poverty line, we believe that $4 is a decent starting point to work towards a Minimum Wage that is pegged above the poverty line. The FTUC estimates that the poverty line is around $4.50 an hour. We advocate that annual adjustments must be made to work towards that goal.

The Constitution of Fiji at Chapter 2, Section 33 clearly states “The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realization of the right of every person to work and to a just minimum wage.” The current minimum wage of $2.32 is grossly inadequate and condemns workers to extreme poverty. It is not a realistic starting point to progressively ensure a “just Minimum Wage” as the target is too far off and annual inflationary movements will further make it impossible to realize a minimum wage above the poverty line.

The situation is further compounded by the National Employment Center policy on providing employment for young people. The wage guideline set for attaches is $60 per week without any FNPF deductions, overtime payments or any other benefits applicable to these workers all in the name of creating employment. The reality is that in many workplaces, permanent employees are being replaced by these attaches at $60 per week. This has undermined the National Minimum wage and the minimum conditions set out in the Employment Relations Promulgation. What is happening in Fiji is that we are driving the wages downwards, a race to the bottom.

The current minimum wage of $2.32 means a weekly wage of $96.05 after FNPF deductions. Then we need to take 9% off that for VAT. This leaves the worker with $87.41 per week. A conservative 2015 estimate for Basic Needs Poverty Line is around $185.00 per week. This leaves a massive gap of about $97.59 per week. As time goes on, our people get deeper and deeper into poverty and debt, yet we wonder why productivity is still low. It is no secret that happy workers are more productive and it is the right time to address this issue.

The FTUC notes the concerns of employers. We also note that some 15 years ago, the Unions called for minimum wages to be increased to the poverty line through the Wages Councils. We were promptly told by employers that the time was not right. The past Chairperson, Fr. Kevin Barr of the Wages Council also advocated the same and was told the same thing just 6 years ago. We are now again told the time is not right. Well, when will the time be right for workers in Fiji to earn a just Minimum Wage. It appears never.

The FTUC understands the plight of small businesses and is receptive to some concessions for this lot. However it disagrees that bigger businesses hide behind the small businesses to pay poverty wages and claim to be concerned about small businesses. This trick will no longer work. Threats of unemployment rising are mere threats and FTUC is confident that if workers earn more, economic activity will increase, which will in turn create demand and jobs. This will be good for businesses as well. This is good for Government as when people spend more they pay more VAT. Decent work is also about a just wage and conditions of employment and not merely any job.

We recall the promise that the Prime Minister made to the people to create a Just society and that no Fijian will be left behind. So far it’s only the workers who have been left behind and we call on Government to act with some determination to ensure a fair deal for workers. A $4 minimum wage is a good place to start.

” Organizing – the pathway to decent work and social justice ” – Anthony

The Fiji Trades Union Congress   continues its intensive campaign on organizing workers into unions  to promote Freedom of Association and  Collective Bargaining as the means to achieve decent work and social justice.

A Training of Trainers  for Union Organizers was conducted on 3rd to 4th of August 2016 at the Capricorn International Hotel, Nadi supported by ILO ACTRAV for FTUC to continue to strengthen its institutions.Selected  members who are lead organisers  in their respective unions were trained on effective organizing skills, the labour  law promoting freedom of association, basic minimum terms and conditions of employment and dispute and grievance procedures  as stipulated in the ERP,to name a few.

The ILO Workers Specialist for the Pacific,  Ms Jotika Sharma  emphasized on the need for organizers to be prepared with adequate and up-to date information on the laws pertaining to and securing the right  of workers to join union and to engage in collective  bargaining. She further elaborated on the Fiji laws that an organiser must be aware of  to encourage workers to join unions and how these could be utlized by workers themselves to deal with issues at the workplace that were in direct contravention with ILO Conventions 87 & 98 and the ERP 2007.  Bro Raghwan, a retired Workers Specialist and now practicing as a IR Consultant discussed how the Fiji case unfolded within the ILO supervisory mechanisms and the outcome of the decisions of the Committee on Application of Standards (CAS) and Committee of Experts on Application of Conventions  and Recommendations (CEACR).

The participants also   built on their skills on effective organizing techniques, and how to efficiently deal with  challenges faced in the field. Good practices were shared by  representatives from the NUFCW,  NUHCTIE, FMWA and NUW.  The 2 day program also focused on developing user friendly education materials to promote  Freedom  of Association and  it was concluded that issues based approach was the ideal way forward.

The training concluded with the National Secretary Bro Felix Anthony encouraging the organizers to   focus on the vulnerable workers where decent working conditions were far from reach. He further mentioned that unions needed to invest resources to increase membership and resources to protect and maintain the membership.  He emphasized that organizing was the only pathway to achieving decent work and social justice for workers.

The participants submitted their draft work plans and education material templates that will be used by the network to promote organizing in the field in the next months.  They will be assisted by the FTUC to implement their plans  within the sectors identified in  the planning meeting  on Friday the 5th of August. A video  promoting the Right to Organise and The Minimum wage campaign was launched at the workshop.

Singapore’s retirement age

” Singapore does not have compulsory retirement but has a retirement age, like many other countries. The retirement age in Singapore is 62, though the re-employment age will rise from 65 to 67 next year. Workers turning 62 can opt to retire or continue working until the re-employment age ceiling.”

Singapore’s retirement age has to go “at some point”, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at a dialogue at the World Cities Summit yesterday.

It is critical that older workers be seen as assets to be continually invested in, rather than just as add- ons needed because employers cannot find younger workers in a tight labour market, he said.

Mr Tharman, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, was speaking at the opening session of the World Cities Summit at Marina Bay Sands.

He outlined key challenges faced by growing cities, such as ageing societies, at the discussion, Towards A Liveable, Sustainable And Resilient Future.

“Older folks are an asset. They have wisdom, experience and they also learn on the job. We have to make this (integrating older workers) part and parcel of the workplace… We have not done it very well in Singapore so far and we have to do much better in this realm,” he said.

His comments were in response to a question by Ambassador-at- large Tommy Koh, who moderated the dialogue between Mr Tharman and the audience of academics, policymakers and industry leaders from across the globe.

Professor Koh asked Mr Tharman if the Singapore Government could abolish compulsory retirement.

“I am 78 years old, I am working full-time and I think many older Singaporeans are like me. They don’t dream of playing golf or lying on a beach. We want to continue to work and contribute to society,” said Prof Koh.

Mr Tharman said Singapore does not have compulsory retirement but has a retirement age, like many other societies. “At some point, this (retirement age) has to go,” he said, adding that older people are assets and they can keep learning even in their 50s or 60s as their brains continue to adapt.

The retirement age in Singapore is 62, though the re-employment age will rise from 65 to 67 next year. Workers turning 62 can opt to retire or continue working until the re-employment age ceiling.

In Parliament this year, Ms Jessica Tan, an MP for East Coast GRC, asked why the Manpower Ministry did not remove the retirement age.

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said doing so could actually be worse for workers as it means that companies can terminate their employees’ services earlier.

The other challenge that comes with an ageing population, said Mr Tharman, is healthcare, which has to be humane, affordable and convenient for people.

For instance, studies abroad have shown that less than 20 per cent of the time a person spends visiting a clinic or hospital is spent seeing the doctor, said Mr Tharman. The rest of the time is spent on travelling, queueing and waiting, and this is especially inconvenient for an older person with disability.

Telemedicine then, said Mr Tharman, is a huge opportunity for cities to tap so that seniors at home have peace of mind, knowing they have a nurse or doctor to get advice from.

In closing, Mr Tharman said innovation is going to be a source of inclusivity. “It is not a contradiction to say that we want a highly innovative society and open society as well as an inclusive society.”

Click on link for read further: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/tharman-spores-retirement-age-has-to-go-at-some-point?xtor=EREC-16-1%5bST_Newsletter_AM%5d-20160712-%5bSingapore%27s+retirement+age+has+to+go+at+some+point:+DPM+Tharman%5d&xts=538291

Human Trafficking and Forced Labor Victims File Lawsuit Against California-based Seafood Importers

Source: Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Victims of human trafficking in the multi-billion dollar seafood industry supply chain,which stretches from seafood packing factories in Thailand to supermarkets in the United States, today filed suit in California federal court. The seven plaintiffs were recruited from their home villages in rural Cambodia to work at factories in Thailand producing shrimp and seafood for export to the United States.  Instead of the good jobs at good wages they were promised, the five men and two women became victims of human trafficking, forced labor, involuntary servitude, and peonage, according to attorneys at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP, Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP and Anthony DiCaprio who represent the villagers.

The defendants sell their shrimp and seafood to large U.S. customers like Walmart and include California-based Rubicon Resources, LLC, and an affiliate, Wales & Co. Universe Ltd, as well as Thai corporations Phatthana Seafood and S.S. Frozen Food.  The complaint states that the defendants were part of a joint venture that knowingly profited from trafficked labor in direct violation of both U.S. and international law.

“When they finally returned home, these men and women had nothing to show for their hard labor and their families were poorer than before,” said Agnieszka Fryszman, Cohen Milstein partner and lead attorney for the villagers.  “Fortunately, in the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act, Congress gave trafficked workers the tools they need to obtain justice when companies knowingly profit from forced labor in their supply chains.”  The United State Government Trafficking in Persons Report, human rights organizations and international organizations have long highlighted the problems of trafficking and forced labor at the Thai shrimp and seafood factories that are part of the multi-billion dollar seafood industry supply chain.

“What happened to me was wrong,” said Plaintiff Keo Ratha. “I filed this suit so companies would think twice before exploiting trafficked workers in the future and to help the workers who were exploited with me.”

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act authorizes victims of human trafficking to pursue a remedy against whoever knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which that person knew or should have known has engaged in an act of trafficking or forced labor.

In the case of the Cambodian villagers, each paid high recruitment fees to obtain jobs in Thailand. Several mortgaged family farmland and went deep into debt to finance the fees and travel costs, expenses they planned to repay with the promised wages.  But when they arrived at the Thai factory, the villagers learned that they would be paid less than promised and that their already meager wages would be further reduced by unexpected salary deductions for housing, fees, and other charges.

Furthermore, the men and women worked long hours in harsh conditions and were packed into crowded housing with inadequate sanitation facilities. When the villagers sought to leave the factory and return home, they were not permitted to do so. Instead, their passports were withheld and they were ordered to pay off the “fees they had incurred”—a condition made difficult, if not impossible, by the reduced pay and unexpected deductions.  For example, one plaintiff, Phan Sophea, stated he was unable to return home for his mother’s funeral because he could not afford to ransom his passport back.

Some of the workers did not make enough money to afford food, even when working more than eight hours a day six days a week.  For example, villager Yem Ban stated he was reduced to scavenging for fish along the beach and vegetables left in the fields after harvest.

When they were allowed to return home, the villagers had nothing to show for their hard labor or, worse, lost the farmland they had used as collateral to pay the job recruiters, driving their families deeper into poverty.  One villager, Phan Sophea, who lost his farmland, states that he and his family now often go hungry. Another, Sem Kosal, said he now is unable to pay school fees for his son and could not afford to buy medicine when his children were ill.

“Through this lawsuit, we hold accountable companies that allow human trafficking in their supply chain,” said Mary Ross of Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP.

A leader in international human rights litigation, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll’s Human Rights Practice Group has been at the forefront of human trafficking cases in the U.S.  Agnieszka Fryszman and Alysson Ouoba of Cohen Milstein are joined by co-counsel Dan Stormer and Mary Tanagho Ross of Hadsell Stormer & Renick, Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman and Anthony Dicaprio.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder assures support to Fiji tripartite partners for labour law reforms

The  Director General  International Labour Organisation , Mr Guy Ryder, reinforced through a strong message to the tripartite partners in Fiji of ILO’s  continued support to ongoing labour law reforms in Fiji.    This was the pledge made by the DG to the FTUC’s 46th Biennial Delegates Conference held in Nadi on May 7th 2016. For full video message  see  https://www.facebook.com/FTUC1/?fref=ts

“As the voice and representative of workers in Fiji, the FTUC plays a vital role in defending and promoting the rights of workers, upholding international labour standards, particularly those relating to Freedom of Association, the Right to Organize and the Right to Bargain Collectively” , My Ryder said. He further added that  “It has taken several years of extensive social dialogue for the tripartite constituents to finally come to this successful conclusion and I am (he is) very proud of the role the ILO has played in helping to solve this entangled and prolonged conflict.”

The Director General  stated that the conflict and  an intense campaign for resolution and justice for Fiji workers was followed by  the tripartite mission to Suva in January of this year.  He added that it was the Report of that ILO Tripartite Mission, the Joint Implementation Report by Fiji’s tripartite constituents, and the adoption of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill of 2016 by Fiji’s Parliament, that the ILO’s Governing Body at this year’s March session decided not to refer the complaint against Fiji to a Commission of Inquiry. ”

He acknowledged  the struggles of the workers of the country and of unions, and commended the perseverance of the FTUC through its strong leadership towards a amicable solution to the impasse in Fiji.

Mr Ryder    further assured the 150 plus delegates and guests at the Nadi Conference  that the ILO’s Office in Suva, the  Regional Office in Bangkok as well as the Headquarters  in Geneva, will do all that the ILO  can to assist their constituents in Fiji in this regard.  His message was received with utmost enthusiasm  and  renewed the vigor  of the FTUC membership  in its pursuit of social justice through the ongoing labour law reforms in Fiji.

JUST MINIMUM WAGE FOR ALL: Felix Anthony

The FTUC Biennial Conference held in Nadi on 7th May 2016 launched a campaign to raise the National Minimum Wage to $4 an hour. While the FTUC is mindful that the $4 Minimum wage will still peg workers below the poverty line, we believe that $4 is a decent starting point to work towards a Minimum Wage that is pegged above the poverty line. The FTUC estimates that the poverty line is around $4.50 an hour. We advocate that annual adjustments must be made to work towards that goal.

The Constitution of Fiji at Chapter 2, Section 33 clearly states “The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realization of the right of every person to work and to a just minimum wage.” The current minimum wage of $2.32 is grossly inadequate and condemns workers to extreme poverty. It is not a realistic starting point to progressively ensure a “just Minimum Wage” as the target is too far off and annual inflationary movements will further make it impossible to realize a minimum wage above the poverty line.

The situation is further compounded by the National Employment Center policy on providing employment for young people. The wage guideline set for attaches is $60 per week without any FNPF deductions, overtime payments or any other benefits applicable to these workers all in the name of creating employment. The reality is that in many workplaces, permanent employees are being replaced by these attaches at $60 per week. This has undermined the National Minimum wage and the minimum conditions set out in the Employment Relations Promulgation. What is happening in Fiji is that we are driving the wages downwards, a race to the bottom.

The current minimum wage of $2.32 means a weekly wage of $96.05 after FNPF deductions. Then we need to take 9% off that for VAT. This leaves the worker with $87.41 per week. A conservative 2015 estimate for Basic Needs Poverty Line is around $185.00 per week. This leaves a massive gap of about $97.59 per week.  As time goes on, our people get deeper and deeper into poverty and debt, yet we wonder why productivity is still low. It is no secret that happy workers are more productive and it is the right time to address this issue.

The FTUC notes the concerns of employers. We also note that some 15 years ago, the Unions called for minimum wages to be increased to the poverty line through the Wages Councils. We were promptly told by employers that the time was not right. The past Chairperson, Fr. Kevin Barr of the Wages Council also advocated the same and was told the same thing just 6 years ago. We are now again told the time is not right. Well, when will the time be right for workers in Fiji to earn a just Minimum Wage. It appears never.

The FTUC understands the plight of small businesses and is receptive to some concessions for this lot. However it disagrees that bigger businesses hide behind the small businesses to pay poverty wages and claim to be concerned about small businesses. This trick will no longer work. Threats of unemployment rising are mere threats and FTUC is confident that if workers earn more, economic activity will increase, which will in turn create demand and jobs. This will be good for businesses as well. Decent work is also about a just wage and conditions of employment and not merely any job.

We recall the promise that the Prime Minister made to the people to create a Just society and that no Fijian will be left behind. So far it’s only the workers who have been left behind and we call on Government to act with some determination to ensure a fair deal for workers. A $4 minimum wage is a good place to start.

Felix Anthony

FTUC National Secretary

Unions Unite

PRESS RELEASE NO. 85-04/16

Unions Unite

It is ironic that Attar Singh should make allegations that FTUC is poaching members from his affiliates. Just a few months ago, Mr. Singh when he was unemployed poached 150 members from his former Telecom and Mining Union to form a new Union in Vatukoula mines so that he can remain employed. Yet he chooses to claim poaching by FTUC. Records are available at the Registrar of Trade Unions Office.

The facts are that FTUC wishes to unite all Unions and Workers in Fiji for a number of years now. Talks have taken place on a number of occasions.  However, Attar Singh has made demands that he be appointed Assistant General Secretary which cannot be accommodated. FTUC is a democratic Workers Organisation. He has chosen, as always to put his personal interest first before the larger interest of all workers in Fiji. He has also demanded that FTUC change its name just so that he can claim some sort of amalgamation between FTUC and FICTU. That can never happen.

Everyone in Fiji is aware that the Employment Relations Promulgation was the work of FTUC which at the time was objected to by Attar Singh. The recent restoration of workers and trade union rights was also the effort and work of FTUC. It is those rights that he can now work as a trade unionist if he wishes.

Attar Singh objected to the recent amendments to those labour laws as well. In light of the destructive and his choice of putting his personal interest before the interest of workers, FTUC has decided that it will approach workers directly to organise workers and unify the trade union movement.  FTUC will not waste time to satisfy Attar’s ego before uniting workers.

It is time Attar Singh tells the workers what he has achieved for them and why they need to remain loyal to him instead of simply objecting to everything and anything.  His so called FICTU is his creation after losing 3 successive FTUC elections for National Secretary. The man’s track record has been about dividing workers and still today religiously remains true to his record. It time to deliver to the workers of Fiji and that can only be done if workers are united. Indeed union means unity and one day we hope he understands this.

Women at Work Trends 2016

The Women at Work report provides the latest ILO data on women’s position in labour markets, examines the factors behind these trends and explores the policy drivers for transformative change.

Throughout their working lives, women continue to face significant obstacles in gaining access to decent jobs. Only marginal improvements have been achieved since the Fourth World Conference on Women of Beijing in 1995, leaving large gaps to be covered in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the United Nations in 2015. Inequality between women and men persists in global labour markets, in respect of opportunities, treatment and outcomes.

Over the last two decades, women’s significant progress in educational achievements has not translated into a comparable improvement in their position at work. In many regions in the world, in comparison to men, women are more likely to become and remain unemployed, have fewer chances to participate in the labour force and – when they do – often have to accept lower quality jobs. Progress in surmounting these obstacles has been slow and is limited to a few regions across the world. Even in many of those countries where gaps in labour force participation and employment have narrowed and where women are shifting away from contributing family work and moving to the services sector, the quality of women’s jobs remains a matter of concern.

The unequal distribution of unpaid care and household work between women and men and between families and the society is an important determinant of gender inequalities at work.

Statement by ILO Director-General

Getting to Equal by 2030, The Future is Now

Source: ILO News Room

“Let’s work together to achieve genuine gender equality and women’s empowerment in the world of work. Decent work for women brings decent lives for all,” says ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day , we affirm that when it comes to Getting to Equal by 2030, The Future is Now.

Last year the United Nations adopted a transformative agenda – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development . If the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be achieved permitting all to move forward together with fairness and justice, there must be readiness to act now on the commitments of the SDGs. What ultimately matters are the results and changes for the better in the lives of girls and boys, women and men everywhere.

They all stand to gain from gender equality as do families, enterprises and societies. The world of work is a privileged entry point to set in motion the transformations called for in the 2030 Agenda. Yet continuing and unacceptable gender gaps in the world of work persist and are captured with alarming clarity by a new ILO report, “Women at Work: Trends 2016 ”.

The report shows the enormous challenges women continue to face in finding and keeping decent jobs. It demonstrates the persistently unequal earning power of women and men. It lays out the imbalance between paid and unpaid work and between hours worked by each, and the difficulty women have in gaining access to adequate maternity protection and pensions.

It is also of serious concern that despite significant progress made by women over the past two decades in education, this has not translated into comparable improvements in their position at work.

These stubborn challenges raise important questions. How do we eliminate the gender pay gap in less than the 70 years it is estimated it will take at current rates of progress. Two generations is too long to wait to achieve pay equity.

Why is it taking so long to end discrimination and violence against women and girls; how do we get recognition of the value of unpaid care and domestic and other work and the consequences for women’s lack of access to quality work with social protection. What measures can ensure the full and effective participation of women at all levels of economic and public life?

As the ILO approaches its 100th anniversary in 2019, our Women at Work Centenary Initiative renews the Organization’s commitment to promote gender equality and to identify measures that will give new impetus to work in this domain, building on what has already worked. A global survey and research on the situation of women in the world of work will clearly identify aspirations and obstacles to guide innovative action.

Our actions must be immediate, effective and far-reaching. There is no time to waste. The 2030 Agenda is an opportunity to pool our efforts and develop coherent, mutually supporting policies for gender equality.

Let’s work together to achieve genuine gender equality and women’s empowerment in the world of work. Let us engage men and boys for women’s empowerment. Decent work for women brings decent lives for all.

Obama bans US imports of slave-produced goods

Source: Associated Press

Reported by: MARTHA MENDOZA

President Barack Obama signed a bill Wednesday that includes a provision banning U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law that has failed to keep products of forced and child labor out of America.

An expose by The Associated Press last year found Thai companies ship seafood to the U.S. that was caught and processed by trapped and enslaved workers. As a result of the reports, more than 2,000 trapped fishermen have been rescued, more than a dozen alleged traffickers arrested and millions of dollars’ worth of seafood and vessels seized.

Until now, U.S. customs law banning imports of items produced by forced or child labor had gone largely unenforced because of two words: “consumptive demand” — if there was not sufficient supply to meet domestic demand, imports were allowed regardless of how they were produced.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who offered the amendment eliminating that exception, said Wednesday his office is already asking U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure they begin enforcing the new rules when the law takes effect in 15 days.

“It’s embarrassing that for 85 years, the United States let products made with forced labor into this country, and closing this loophole gives the U.S. an important tool to fight global slavery,” he said.

Campaign for Unions

The Fiji Times

Felix Chaudhary

IN a bid to ensure all workers in the country have the ability to join a union, the Fiji Trades Union Congress has embarked on an organising campaign.

General secretary Felix Anthony reassured non-unionised sectors that the FTUC would work towards embracing them to address any issues workers in smaller businesses and organisations were facing.

“We want all workers to join unions or we will help them form their own,” Mr Anthony said.

“We will also advertise in the media to advise workers of their rights to join a union and to collective bargaining.”

Mr Anthony said a team from FTUC visited workers at the Lautoka Hospital on Friday to advise them of their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

“The team also spoke to them about joining unions.”

He also said he was keen to hold discussions with other trade union umbrella organisations in a bid to further unite and strengthen the trade union movement in the country.

“However, we intend to do this with legitimate unions and not splinter groups who register as unions.”

The FTUC is recognised by the International Labour Organization and International Trades Union Congress as the workers representative in Fiji.

Government, however, has made known that only 30 per cent of workers in the country belonged to a union.

Employment, Industrial Relations and Productivity Minister Semi Koroilavesau said the remaining 70 per cent were not affiliated to any union.

He said they were mainly from the informal sector but represented the overwhelming majority of workers in the country.

Labour Review Outcome

PRESS RELEASE NO. 84-02/16

Labour Review Outcome

The Fiji Trades Union Congress has jointly signed an implementation report to the Governing Body of ILO. The Report is required under the Tripartite Agreement signed by the Parties in March, 2015. The Report was signed after lengthy negotiations between the FTUC, FCEF and Government. This report is based on the Employment Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 and the other matters agreed to in negotiations. To clarify the whole issue of the Complaint to ILO on the Freedom of Association under Article 26 of the ILO Constitution, I list out the achievements.

  1. Repeal of the Essential Industries Decree – This Decree denied workers the right to belong to Trade Unions to represent them, to defend them, and terminated all grievances existing at the time. This Decree empowered the Employers to impose unilaterally terms and conditions of employment. It created the Bargaining Units to replace Trade Unions. All these rights have been restored.
  2. Repeal of the Employment Relations (Amendment) Decree 2011. This Decree excluded all Civil Servants from the ERP. This meant that Civil Servants had no recourse to their grievances and disputes, no collective bargaining or any rights.The Repeal now brings all civil servants within the ambit of the ERP once again and includes right to collective bargaining and recourse to the disputes procedures amongst all other rights.
  3. Section 75 of ERP amended to include race, culture, sex, gender identity and expression, religion and pregnancy are added as prohibited grounds of discrimination.
  4. Section 78 of ERP amended to include “opinions or belief” at work as a ground for discrimination for rates of remuneration.
  5. Section 79 of ERP is amended for greater clarity and does no longer differentiate between male and female workers.
  6. Section 80 is amended to ensure that if there is any remuneration differential due to any grounds of prohibited discrimination, then this must be corrected to ensure equal pay for equal work.
  7. Section 119 of the ERP is amended to allow any 7 workers in a workplace to form a union. It also allows workers to join more than one union if the worker is employed by two different employers.
  8. Section 127 of the ERP is amended to reduce from 6 months to 3 months the time required by a worker to be eligible to become a union officer. This Section also now allows an officer of a registered trade union to be an officer of another union as well. This restriction is now removed.
  9. Section 128 of ERP is amended to now require 10% of financial members of the Union to request an inspection of the minutes or financial records of a Union. Previously, the Registrar would do that on his own accord.
  10. Section 170 of the ERP is now amended to read that if the Permanent Secretary does not act upon a report of a dispute within 30 days, it would deem to have been accepted.
  11. Section 250 of ERP is amended to remove any imprisonment for any unlawful strike and substituted by a fine.
  12. Restoration of all check off. The Employers will verify with employees on whether they belong to a union.
  13. Reduction of period of strike notice from 28 days to 14 days.
  14. Reinstatement of individual grievances which were discontinued by the ENI Decree and the ERP Amendment Decree 2011 shall be reinstated and determined by the Arbitration Court for expeditious adjudication.
  15. Invitation to the ILO to provide technical assistance to determine the list of essential services and industries.
  16. Removal of the bargaining units and allowing workers to form or join trade unions freely.
  17. Amend Section 191X and 191 BC from the ERP Amendment Act 2015 to allow parties to determine representation of their choice in disputes and before the Tribunal.
  18. Any worker who was terminated during the period of the ENI Decree shall have the right to challenge the termination through the Arbitration Court within 28 days from the date of the new law coming into force. The Court shall have the power to award compensation of up to $25,000 for unfair, wrong or unjust terminations.
  19. Any trade union that was deregistered as a result of the ENI Decree shall be entitled to be re-registered without payment of fees. This must be done within 7 days of the law coming into force.

Subject to the implementation of all the above, the parties have requested the Governing Body to discontinue to pursue the Unions complaint on Article 26.

The parties also agreed that ERAB will continue with the review of the labour laws that remain pending to ensure full compliance with all conventions ratified by Fiji.

The parties have agreed that the amendments agreed to recently, would go before the Cabinet on Tuesday 2nd February 2016 and to Parliament on Monday 8th February 2016. We expect the new amendments agreed to become law sometime that week. Government has assured us that the matter will be expedited.

The FTUC calls upon all workers who had grievances discontinued by the ENI Decree or the ERP Amendment Decree 2011 to immediately get in touch with their unions or the Ministry of Labour to have their matters reinstated.

Any worker who was terminated during the period of the ENI Decree must get in touch with their unions or the Ministry to make an application to the Arbitration Court for compensation. There is a 28 day time limit from the date this matter becomes law which is likely around the 11th or 12th of February 2106.

We also call upon unions that were deregistered to apply immediately for registration. No fee will be applicable and you have 7 days from when the law becomes effective.

The FTUC calls upon all Unions to now submit their log of claims to ensure that all workers come under a collective agreement rather than individual contracts. This is the right of any worker to choose whether to belong to a Collective Agreement or an Individual Contract.

The restoration of these rights means that we no longer need to pursue the complaint of Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining under Article 26 with ILO. Some may argue that the FTUC has not pursued the Political Parties Decree which forbids Union Officials the right to take up political office and activity. We remain seriously concerned and will pursue this matter. However, we believe the restoration of rights of workers must take priority over the rights of Union Officials.

We shall continue to persevere.

Felix Anthony 

National Secretary

Secret Russian arms donation to Fiji raises concerns of bid for Pacific influence

Source: The Guardian

At least 20 containers, believed to be full of weapons and military hardware, were landed in the former British colony.

A secretive shipment of weapons and military hardware donated by Russia to the military of Fiji may be an “opening move” in a battle for influence in the Asia-Pacific region security experts have said.

The 20-container shipment – sent by the Russian government to its recently-forged ally – was unloaded from a cargo ship in Suva last week. It will be followed by Russian military personnel arriving in the archipelago nation next month to act as “trainers” for the new arsenal.

The manifest of the arms shipment remains unknown. It is believed to contain mainly small arms, but opposition politicians, concerned by the secrecy of the transfer, have speculated it may include a helicopter, heavy weaponry or non-lethal munitions intended for domestic crowd control.

Fiji has said it will formally unveil the weapons in February, but some in the country are skeptical the entire arsenal will be publicly revealed.

The weapons, the Fiji government has said, will re-arm Fijian peace-keepers serving in UN missions overseas with modern weapons.

A significant proportion of the Fiji military is currently involved in such missions. Currently, just under 1,000 troops are on duty in the Sinai, Syria, Golan Heights, Iraq, and Lebanon, and the Fijian government is anxious to maintain its commitment.

UN assignments are profitable, and the Fijian troops themselves earn significantly more money on peace-keeping duties with the UN than while on regular defence force pay. Their remittances back home are a significant boost to the economy.

Confirming the arrival of the consignment, acting commander of the Republic of  Fiji Military Forces, Rear-Admiral Viliame Naupoto said the weapons were needed because Fijian peacekeepers were working in volatile areas “[and] they are using outdated arms”.

“I must thank the Government of Russia for the timely donation.”

Director of the Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute, Jenny Hayward-Jones told The Guardian the Russian military transfer was “definitely unusual”, but needed to be seen in the context of Fiji seeking new diplomatic and military allies in the wake of its fractious recent political history.

After then Commodore Bainimarama led a military coup to seize control of the country in 2006, traditional allies Australia, New Zealand, and the US imposed military, travel, and financial restrictions on Fiji, which severely strained relations.

In response, Fiji sought new international partners – establishing 57 new diplomatic partnerships since 2006 – and, in particular, deepening ties with first China, and now, Russia.

“For a while now, Fiji has been looking for other relationships as it moved away from the traditional partners of Australia-New Zealand for military co-operation.”

On the Russian side, the arms transfer may have begun as “simply transactional”, Hayward-Jones said.

“But it would be naive to say that Russia does not have intentions. And it will be aware of the perceptions this will create.”

Dr Paul Buchanan, director of 36th Parallel Security Assessments, said he believed the decline of ‘the West’s’ influence in Fiji was terminal, and Fiji’s desire for new partners coincided with China and Russia seeking to project their influence across the Asia-Pacific.

“The sanctions didn’t succeed in hurting Fiji, they succeeded in alienating Fiji. Just as the Obama administration has had its ‘Look East’ pivot towards Asia, Fiji has had a ‘Look North’ pivot, which is really a misnomer because it just meant ‘Look Anywhere Else’.”

Russia has worked assiduously to deepen economic, diplomatic, and military ties with Fiji. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was the first senior Russian government official to visit Fiji in 2012, and the next year, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama became the first Fijian leader to pay a state visit to Russia.

Fijian officers will now study at Russian military academies, Buchanan said.

“It strikes me that we could see in 10 to 15 years, regular visits by Russian naval ships to Suva. And perhaps in 20 years, China and/or Russian being granted forward basing rights in Fiji.”

“I think this is an opening pawn move in what’s going to be a much longer chess game.”

Fiji opposition whip Ratu Isoa Tikoca, from the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), speculated the shipment contained not only small arms and ammunition, but tanks and a helicopter.

“The covertness of getting this across without notifying the public, without notifying … parliament, this is not an issue that was even raised in the committee that looks after foreign affairs and defence,” he told Radio Australia.

“I demand that the government, the prime minister, the commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Force open those consignments and reveal what it is.”

Buchanan said the imminent arrival of Russian military trainers in Fiji raised suspicions about exactly what had been delivered.

“The Fiji military is capable. It doesn’t need Russians to teach recruits how to fire a sub-machine gun.”

He said reports that the Russian consignment included tear gas and other non-lethal munitions, raised concerns those weapons might be used for crowd control of the local population.

Hayward-Jones told The Guardian it was legitimate to question what exactly Fiji had received.

“I think the Fiji opposition, and the public, has a right to know what exactly has been bought here, for what does the government intend to use these weapons, where, and in what circumstances.

“But I also think people need to ask why? We need to look at the broader context and ask: what is Fiji intending here?”

ILO Reaffirms ERP Amendment not Compliant

FTUC PRESS RELEASE NO. 83-01/16

ILO Reaffirms ERP Amendment not Compliant

The ILO Committee of Experts have completed its review of the Employment Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 and have concluded that much of the amendment is not in compliance with the Core Conventions, contrary to what Government had claimed all along. The FTUC had maintained that the Amendment Act did not address issues that were critical to the submission of a joint report to the Governing Body of ILO. The FTUC maintains that Government has not honored the Tripartite Agreement it signed in Geneva on 25th March 2015.

The Experts have addressed about 14 areas where the Amendment is deficient and a whole host of Sections and Sub- sections of the Amendment Act to be amended. The areas of concern listed by the Experts are:

  1. The Non compliance with the Tripartite Agreement
  2. Assault of Felix Anthony and cases against Daniel Urai remain pending
  3. Various provisions of the ERP Amendment Act including the inclusion of ENI Decree provisions within the Amendment Act and the expanded list of Essential Industries.
  4. Use of Bargaining Units to undermine Trade Unions
  5. Nomination of representatives in ERAB
  6. Remedy for de-registered Unions under ENI Decree
  7. Reinstatement of disputes terminated under ENI Decree
  8. Denial of Prisons Officers their right to form and join Unions.
  9. Excessive discretionary powers of the Registrar of Trade Unions
  10. Interference into Trade Union affairs and provisions for compulsory arbitration
  11. Right of Unions to formulate their own programs and activities. There are some 14 sub sections that need amendment in the Amendment Act.
  12. Public Sector being classified as Essential Service and restrictions applicable
  13. Electoral Decree S154 placing restrictions of Public Officers including Union Officials and employees.
  14. Similar provisions in the Fiji Constitution that breaches Freedom of Association.

All of the above matters were raised by FTUC with the Tripartite Partners. Government failed to act. This report is a sad indictment of Governments insincerity and bad faith. It reaffirms the FTUC position that much more needs to be done to ensure compliance. The report does not examine the serious issue of practice. Compliance with Core Conventions is not only that legislation is in order but also that workers are able to practice what the law provides. This is clearly not the case today. The Committee of Experts has reiterated its call to Government to work with the Tripartite Partners to review all these provisions and make amendments. The Report which was released on 11th January 2016 and made available to government by ILO was not distributed to the FCEF and FTUC as requested by ILO. The report puts matters in the right perspective and should assist the Tripartite Mission visiting Fiji next week in its work. The report of the Mission will be presented to the Governing Body of ILO in March for a decision on a Commission of Inquiry.

The FTUC calls upon Government to act honestly and honor the Agreement it had signed with the FCEF and FTUC.

FELIX ANTHONY

NATIONAL SECRETARY

APPROVAL OF 5% PAY INCREASE FOR F.N.U UNION MEMBERS

FIJI PUBLIC SERVICE ASSOCIATION NEWS LETTER

APPROVAL OF 5% PAY INCREASE

FIJI PUBLIC SERVICE ASSOCIATION NEWS LETTER

APPROVAL OF 5% PAY INCREASE

rajeshwar-141x150

The Fiji Public Service Association was delighted to inform their F.N.U members, that at the last F.N.U Council meeting that was held on the 29th December, 2015 at the Nasinu Campus their Association through the General  Secretary was able to successfully argue a case for a 5% pay rise across the board to be effective from the 1st January 2016. A new Performance Appraisal System is also to be implements from next year so that above average performers are recognized for their hard work and benefit monetarily by earning additional increments.

Members were informed that it was not easy to convince the employers for pay increase under current austerity measures implemented by organizations particularly those under government funding.

It is absolutely disappointing that many non-members benefit from our hard work and sustained fight to win pay rise, who then enjoy the privilege without any guilt. It is time that those free riders be identified and be told to join the union and not to ride freely on the backs of their colleagues who are paying subscription to keep the union movement viable. The management is already saying that non-members are happy without asking for a raise. The time will come that these non-members would be the reason to block further progress in pay increase and other benefits.

Future improvement to your terms and conditions of service will depend on a solid union membership in FNU otherwise it would be a goodbye to yearly expectations.

The Association is happy and satisfied that it has been able to single handedly win a pay rise for its members and for other sister unions in its bid to protect the interest of union members.

FPSA hopes that non-members will exercise their better judgement and join the colleague who are in union, without any further delay.

Wishing you all a Happy and Prosperous 2016.

In Solidarity

R. Singh

CLAIM FOR 20% PAY RISE FOR FRCA MEMBERS

FIJI PUBLIC SERVICE ASSOCIATION NEWS LETTER

CLAIM FOR 20% PAY RISE FOR FRCA MEMBERS

The Fiji Public Service Association had lodged a claim with the Chairman of the FRCA Board on Tuesday 29th December, 2015 seeking a 20% pay rise across the board to be effective from 1st January, 2016.

The basis of the claim is that in the last nine (9) years FPSA members  have not received a pay rise and under the current salary structure, Band 1 and Band 2 the FPSA members  are paid salaries below the poverty line threshold of $16,000 per annum.

Our claim is justified as our FRCA members are identified more as a working poor and the main reason have been the absence of pay increases and the elimination of inflation adjusted wage settlements.

Moreover, the real wage has declined by 40% over the years and the cost of consumer items are becoming out of reach of our members with food prices continuing to increase in an upward  trend and putting bread on the table for the family is a struggle.

The pay structure of FRCA has become a to distorted over a period of time and there is a widespread misconception that FPSA members in FRCA are earning good salaries. The current FRCA 2013 strucutre of Band 1 and Band 2 below will show that majority of FPSA members are paid below the poverty line threshold.

BAND FRCA 2013 SALARY STRUCUTRE
80% 100% 120%
1 9,093 11,366 13,369
2 12,066 15,083 18,099

The Fiji Public Service Association believes that the terms and conditions including salaries should be competitive enough to attract and retain talented and motivated staff within the organization.

FPSA hopes that all employees in FRCA will now join our struggle to get fair and just wage for everyone. It is time that free riders be told to join the union and not to ride freely on the backs of their collegues who are paying subcription to keep the union viable. The management is already saying that non-members are happy working without asking for a raise. Further benefits depend on a solid union membership otherwise a good bye to anymore benefits.

We eagerly await response from the Chairman of the FRCA Board for a negotiated settlement of our pay rise claim.

Wishing you all a Happy  and Prosperous 2016.

Yours Solidarity

R. Singh.

CIVIL SERVANTS SEEKING 15% PAY RISE

The Confederation of Public Sector Unions which represents all civil servants including Teachers and Nurses have submitted a claim to the Minister for Civil Service on Wednesday 23rd December, 2015 seeking 15% pay rise across the Board and below the level of Permanent Secretaries with effect from 1st January, 2016.

They claim that the last pay rise granted on 1st January, 2014 was comparatively off the percentage granted to the Permanent Secretaries. The Confederation argues that the relativity in the pay should be maintained in the civil service. The Job Evaluation in the public service has always addressed the relativity gap. Currently there is a pay gap of around 77% between the Deputy Secretaries and the Permanent Secretaries. This gap has a follow on effect down to the lowest paid civil servants.
The last pay rise did not adequately lift the lower paid civil servants above the poverty line threshold of $16,000 per annum. Moreover, the real wage has declined by almost 40% in the last nine (9) years and further aggravated by the rising cost of consumer goods.
The implementation of the 2003 Job Review Exercise has totally excluded the core Public Service and the Teachers. The disciplined services had a windfall and they had a major retrospective gains in the salary levels and simultaneously benefitted with general salary increase given in 2014. The government as an employer of all civil servants is not seen to be fair for consistently rewarding sections of the service particularly the disciplined services vis a vis those in the civil cadre.
The Confederation firmly believes that the civil service is at the crossroads. It has been strongly criticised from various quarters for different reasons at different times. In spite of all the inherent problems it has functioned without any major deficiencies. It states that the service has been severely weakened by wastage and staff shortage especially in the professional domain. The ordinary civil servants with all the odds against them have stood the test of the time and rendered their duties honestly and diligently. This classification constitutes the bulk of the service who are seldom heard or taken note of.It further argues that whilst the government has been pursuing a public service reform programme with a lot of fury and passion it has given little priority to the terms and condition of service including pay.

The Confederation believes that the terms and conditions should be competitive enough to attract and retain talented and motivated individuals within the service. Over rigidity may not be the option at a time when the country is faced with worsening brain drain. This has been recently proven when five (5) expatriates will be appointed as Permanent Secretaries.
There is a widespread misconception that all civil service employees earn good salaries. However, on the contrary it has been assessed that number of civil servants who are earning salaries between $12,000 to $14,000 are living on a poverty line or below. In the last 12 years the inflation rate has cumulatively brought the situation far worse than what could have been imagined. The purchasing power of the dollar also needs to be taken into account when determining the salary rates. It is estimated that the real salary rate for the civil service and many other groups remains stagnant and behind by 12 years. Therefore, the salary rates in the public service needs to be reviewed in the context of the capacity of the employees to provide the basic needs for their families.

UN rights expert urges Fiji to update legislation to provide firm foundations for education reforms

SUVA / GENEVA (15 December 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, today called on the Government of the Republic of Fiji to modernise the legal framework in order to provide a solid basis for education policies and planning.

“Fiji has made significant strides in universalizing access to tuition-free education, and improving its quality throughout the country,” Mr. Singh said at the end of his first official visit to the country. “However, the Education Act must be updated in a comprehensive fashion to ensure that all aspects, including the right to full access to quality education, teaching conditions, and financing, are clearly defined.”

“Fiji is going through an historic period of transition in the education system to put an end to ethnic divide,” the independent expert said commending the Fijian Government for its political commitment to reforming the education system comprehensively, and “its efforts to build a better Fiji for all, with a focus on multicultural education.”

To that end, the Special Rapporteur called on the Government to ensure that the education provided is universally available to all children in rural and remote areas without discrimination, as required by human rights law, and that its laws, policies and practices are in line with state obligations for the right to education.

“The quality of education must be continuously strengthened by improving infrastructure, by students’ educational attainments, and by making the teaching profession professionally coveted and socially esteemed,” Mr. Singh noted.

“Providing free education, textbooks, and subsidized transportation for all is commendable,” he said. “Welcoming the unprecedented increase in education spending, I encourage the Government of Fiji to continue to prioritize education spending to strengthen the quality of education.”

The Special Rapporteur also acknowledged official efforts to strengthen technical and vocational education and training with innovative schemes. According to the UN expert, technical colleges are vital pathways for Fiji’s youth.

During his nine-day mission, Mr. Singh met with high level Government authorities, parliamentarians, civil society representatives and international organizations. He also visited schools, a university and technical colleges in Suva, Lautoka and Sabeto, and spoke with academics, teachers and administrators.

The Special Rapporteur will prepare a report to be presented at the UN Human Rights Council in June 2016, providing recommendations for strengthening the education system in Fiji, founded on the right to education.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16880&LangID=E

ENDS

Kishore Singh is the Special Rapporteur on the right to education since August 2010. He is an Indian professor specialized in international law, who has worked for many years with UNESCO for the promotion of the right to education, and advised a number of international, regional and national entities on right to education issues. Throughout his career, Mr. Singh has supported the development of the right to education in its various dimensions and worked to better understanding this right as an internationally recognized right. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/SREducation/Pages/SREducationIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Fiji: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/FJIndex.aspx

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ILO Welcomes New Climate Change Agreement Committing Nations To A Just Transition and the Creation of Decent Work

Source: ILO News

PARIS (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has welcomed the commitment by 195 countries at theCOP21 Climate Conference , to combat climate change and pave the way to a low carbon and sustainable future.

The agreement highlights in particular “the imperative of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities”.

“The world has come a long way in realizing that acting on climate change and promoting job creation and social inclusion are intertwined challenges of the 21st century, and ones that we must confront together if we are to realize the aspirations of social justice,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, who attended COP21.

The Paris Agreement reflects an important recognition of the inter-linkages between actions to address climate change on the one hand, and employment and social inclusion on the other. It is also a call on actors in the world of work to play their part.

“The recently adopted ILO Guidelines for a transition towards a greener economy can become a powerful instrument to translate this global agreement into national policies that not only protect the environment but also create decent jobs and extend social protection,” said Ryder.

The ILO Director-General also emphasized that the ILO’s Green Initiative will be an important conduit to galvanize the engagement of the world of work in their contribution to the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The ILO believes that the response to the global challenges of environmental protection, economic development and social inclusion must be founded on decent work and an equitable shift to sustainable development.

The greening of enterprises, workplace practices and the labour market more broadly are essential components of climate change mitigation and adaptation that is inclusive and fair for enterprises, workers and communities.

“The ILO is ready to work with our constituents – governments, workers and employers as we collectively pursue a just transition to environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all,” Ryder concluded.

ITUC Response to Paris Climate Summit Conclusions

The Paris deal recognizes the reality of the climate threat, but only takes us part of the way.

Source: ITUC 

Climate change is already destroying lives and livelihoods with more than 2.6 million people displaced by extreme weather events and changing seasons. This will only get worse.

The Paris decisions acknowledge the challenges and move global action forward, but while the Summit conclusions refer to the target of a 1.5-degree limit, the capacity to leverage ambition on the scale required to stabilise the planet is still a question for the future.

90% of the world’s people want action on climate. Unions, civil society, responsible business and investors stood together asking for an ambitious long term goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, with a strong review mechanism to make it possible. Developing economies asked for the promised finance to assist with mitigation and adaptation. All governments were asked to respect human rights and a just transition for working people and their communities.

The Paris scorecard is compromised by countries which put the protection of their immediate national interests ahead of a sustainable planet and a common future.

The ITUC laid down 3 top lines for the Summit.

1. To raise ambition and realize the job potential of climate action
While governments committed to stay well below a 2 degrees trajectory and referenced 1.5 degrees as an ideal pathway, the realization of that commitment requires greater ambition before 2020 and a review of each national target (and not just a collective assessment) before the agreement comes into force in 2020 – MISSING

2. To deliver on climate finance and support the most vulnerable
$100billion a year is on the table, with a commitment within that to balance adaptation and emission reductions but out of the Paris Agreement. This is a small price to pay for saving the human race – WEAK

3. To commit to securing a just transition for workers and their communities
We face the biggest and most rapid industrial transformation in history. While a just transition for workers and the respect of human rights have been included in the preamble too many Governments refused to commit to it in the operational sections – A FIRST STEP ON WHICH WE WILL BUILD

Sharan burrow says ’”The race to stabilise the climate has begun but tragically, too many governments still lack ambition for the survival of their people

But trade unions know that the road was never to Paris, but through Paris and our resolve to manage a just transition in the face of the largest and most rapid industrial transformation in human history is stronger than ever.”

Arising from the COP, unions will demand of their governments and employers the dialogue that will see a national plan for decarbonisation, clean energy and jobs – a plan that includes commitments to ensure a just transition for all.

Climate justice requires us to leave no-one behind in what is now a race against time.

FTUC/ILO launch “A Trade Union Guide to Eliminating Child Labour “

Delegates and Guests showcase the “Trade Union Guide to Eliminating Child Labour ” at the launch on Saturday, November 21st in Nadi

The Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) launched a resource guide for trade unions on child labour on 21 November, 2015. The booklet, titled ‘A Trade Union Guide to Eliminating Child Labour in Fiji’ is a practical resource guide to be used by trade union members to assist in the fight against child labour.

Speaking at the launch, Fiji Teachers Union General Secretary Mr. Agni Deo Singh highlighted the guide as a collaborative effort between the FTUC and ILO. Mr. Singh also commended the contributions of the trade union members towards the completion of the guide. “This guide for trade unions has been the realization of work on child labour throughout this year which trade union members have greatly contributed to. It also encompasses the work that the FTUC has been doing in trying to raise awareness on child labour with its members as well as in the community at large. The FTUC has worked on child labour issues with ILO on the Tackling Child Labour through Education (TACKLE) Project since 2008 and we are grateful to the European Union for funding this work. Through that funding, FTUC was able to assist approximately 1,000 children who were involved in or at risk of child labour and we look forward to continuing this work”.

ILO Officer-In-Charge and Specialist on Decent Work Strategies, Mr. Satoshi Sasaki noted that although international targets had been set for the elimination of child labour, this would not be achieved and Mr. Sasaki called for a more concerted effort from all stakeholders to eliminate child labour. He also highlighted the impact that the TACKLE project had in building capacity on combating child labour in Fiji. “In the past few years, Fiji has accumulated considerable child labour expertise and experience (on child labour). The Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations (MEPIR) has established a Child Labour Unit to coordinate and lead action against child labour. The ILO has also collaborated with other government agencies, the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation and NGOs on child labour programmes. The ILO has worked closely with the FTUC to implement child labour programmes in the Western division through the Fiji Teachers Union and has also conducted Child Labour Forums with union members earlier this year. Union members are one of the key partners in assisting to identify and report on children in child labour and they are ideally placed to monitor activities in their workplace as well as their community, raise awareness and take action against child labour.”

“A Trade Union Guide for Eliminating Child Labour in Fiji is launched today, intended for use by union members in all aspects of work on child labour. The guide has practical examples of how you can raise awareness at the community level as well as the national l level and take action against child labour. It also contains the relevant national laws and policies relating to child labour such as the Employment Relations Promulgation, the Child Welfare Decree, the Ministry of Education’s Child Protection Policy and the Crimes Decree. Users can refer to this if they come across instances of child labour.”

In closing his speech, Mr. Sasaki praised the good work being done by the FTUC and union reps in eliminating child labour and reaffirmed ILO’s commitment to provide technical support to the FTUC as required.

 

  • Ends

FTUC pledges support to striking Korean workers and leader of KCTU

The FTUC  pledges its strong support and solidarity to the striking Korean workers who are members of the affiliates of the  Korean Confederation of Trade Unions( KCTU).  Their President has been arrested  after a stand-off lasting 24 days. He sought shelter with monks who had given him refuge  from the police.

The FTUC notes  that this excessive attempted raid and subsequent arrest is part of a broader effort to intimidate the democratic labour movement ahead of mass worker protests that was scheduled for November 14 and further strike action later in the year. We note that the ILO and international labour community have continuously censured the Korean government for its violations of civil and fundamental labour right and must state once again that such acts will not be tolerated.

Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) head Han Sang-gyun, right in front row, leaves Jogye Temple in central Seoul with Ven. Dobeop, left, Thursday, ending a 24-day stay in the temple. Han then surrendered to police. Picture: Yonhap

Police raided the offices of the KCTU/ Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU) on November 6, attacked participants in a mass demonstration against regressive new labour legislation on November 4 and followed that up by raiding the offices of 8 KCTU affiliates on November 21.

Many people have been showing their support and solidarity to the Korean railway workers who have been on strike against privatization for more than 2 weeks. On December 22, the police raided illegally and violently the KCTU headquarters looking for KRWU (Korean Railway Workers Union) leaders for whom arrest warrants were issued. However, at the end of the brutal raid and search at every corner of the office, the police couldn’t find any of the KRWU leaders. Regardless of the heavy suppression, the strike is still very strong. KCTU is calling for a general strike on December 28 to protest the government’s brutal anti-labour behaviour.

We wish to convey our unwavering support and  strength  to those affected workers and their families by this  continued repression by the Korean Government and pray that the sacrifices made by the members and their leader will not go unnoticed.

For further information:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/south-korean-police-detain-union-boss-over-violent-protests-1.2694440

https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2015/12/116_192870.html

Denial of workers’ rights continues as world marks Human Rights Day

[Below is the Press Statement of KCTU President Han, Sang-gyun, Dec 10, 2015]
While I may leave your side briefly, I will continue to fight with you until we have stopped the government’s regressive labour policies!
*********
First, let me express my gratitude to the Joggye Order and the Joggye monks and followers who have experienced great inconvenience and difficulty over the past 25 days while the fate of South Korea’s 20 million workers rested in the embrace of Buddha’s mercy. I particularly thank the Joggye Order and Joggye Temple for their commitment to work with us to stop the government’s regressive labour policies upon which the survival of 20 million workers rests.
Yesterday polices forces penetrated the pure space, the sanctuary of the temple grounds without hesitation despite the expression and concern of the Joggye leadership. This is an act we cannot tolerate. December 9 will be remembered as a day of shame on which the insanity of the ROK authorities was demonstrated beyond refute.
The Park Geun-hye administration mobilised thousands of police forces to arrest me. I am not a murderer, nor have I committed a serious crime. I have not robbed or incited a riot.
I am a dismissed worker.
I have lived for the last several years knowing deep in my soul how frightening dismissal is to a common worker. My children have had to give up their dreams. My once happy family has been left in ruins.
We dismissed workers are like moths forced to wander about, drawn towards our deaths. Have not many of my colleagues already been forced to give their lives? Whose fault is this?
The government says we must keep wages low and make it easy to fire workers in order to revitalise businesses and the economy. Is a government plan by which workers must die in order for businesses to live a fair policy and law?
I am fighting to stop the government’s regressive labour policies, which will make it easy to fire workers. This is the real crime of the class 1 fugitive Han Sang-gyun who the whole country is talking about. Is this really a normal state of affairs?
I am the president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).
Many of the press here today, impatient to get their hands on us, have been spinning out article after article over the last several days. They say the KCTU is made up of a labour aristocracy and does not represent low-wage precarious workers.
Is this really true?
The 9.8 million precarious workers in this country are fighting to survive in a jungle of a world. They spend their days without hope just trying to get by. But the legislation on precarious workers proposed by the administration and New Frontier Party will wipe out the change precarious workers now have to become permanently employed after two years and with it the only simple dream these workers have.
The administration and ruling party are also seeking to wipe out good jobs through unregulated expansion of temporary agency employment, the legalisation of a trade in people.
They are also proposing legislation that would make it a fact of life that one has to work through a temp agency after reaching the age of 50.
It should be asked, if the KCTU is only the union of a labour aristocracy, why would we be organising mass mobilisations and general strikes and enduring the severe damages and repression we are now facing in order to stop these evil bills on precarious employment?
They say that we carried out a violent protest on November 14.
Why do they not talk about the use of state force in violent suppression of this protest.
The farmer Baek Nam-gi lies in a hospital hanging between life and death as a result of a murderous water cannon used on that day. Why is no one talking about this? Did this man wield an iron pipe? Did he act violently towards the police? Why is no one taking responsibility? Why have we not heard one word of apology?
What is the real reason for labeling the KCTU a violent organisation and Han Sang-gyun the ringleader, of threatening us with charges of sedition and summoning, arresting and imprisoning hundreds of individuals in relation to one single protest? Might it not be an attempt to cover up the administration’s murderous violence?
The biggest criminal of our times is the Park Geun-hye administration, which is responsible for ruining the lives of common people. This fact was affirmed during the first and second mass mobilisations, when tens of thousands poured into the streets crying, ‘We will live like this no longer!’
It is not possible to hide the sky with the palm of one’s hand.
Even the formalistic democracy we had is now being put to death. Why is it that none of the press are talking about it?
Following this press conference I will voluntarily turn myself over to the police.
Warrants for my arrest and pre-trial detention have been issued in relation to violations of the Road Traffic Act and the Assembly and Demonstration Act. According to the scenario written out by the government, I cannot avoid imprisonment. No, I will not avoid imprisonment. But, I will clearly demonstrate the madness of the government’s repression and illegal acts in court. I will remove the flowered mask and expose the true face of this unjust government, which has only brought upon itself confusion and ridicule by threaten us with references to IS, illegal protests and sedition.
I warn the government!
Even if you carry out heretofore unheard of repression against the KCTU and imprison its president, your regressive labour policies cannot succeed.
At the formal request of the chaebols (conglomerate corporations), the administration and New Frontier Party are seeking the expansion of low-wage and precarious work, removal of restrictions on firing and the weakening of trade unions. And they are deceiving the public by packaging these measures as a plan to revive the economy. Even if this gift given to the chaebols is wrapped in the wrapping paper of ‘reform’, the government’s policies will never be real reform in the positive sense of the word.
In the upcoming general and presidential elections the whole Korean people will deliver a verdict on the anti-labour, anti-people New Frontier administration, which has declared itself clearly on the side of the chaebols and is ruining the lives of workers and common people.
In order to stop the regressive labour policies, which are a disaster not only for workers but the entire Korean people, the KCTU will take the action most feared by the government and go on general strike. This is the wish of the 20 million Korean workers and the historical duty given to us. We will proceed with our general strike with the support of the public and as part of collective struggle carried out by all common Korean people.
To the opposition party, I ask the following.
With the president acting as commander to drive forward her regressive policies, how longer are you going to keep sitting at the negotiating table weighing the situation? Is it so difficult to decide if you are going to side with the chaebols and capital or side with the workers?
The party chairman and National Assembly speaker have announced several times the party’s official opposition, but the public are still asking what your real position is. It time for you to declare that you will stop deliberation on the labour reform bills during the upcoming provisional session of the National Assembly.
The Korean people will not forgive you if you play party politics and again try to reach a deal with the administration and ruling party.
Beloved KCTU members!
I apologise. As a result of state repression, I am forced to leave you briefly without having finished the general strike action to stop the government’s labour polices, the duty which you have bestowed on me. But, even if I am detainned today, I will continue to struggle until we have stopped these policies. I will continue to fight in prison and in court.
There is not much time left before the December 16 general strike. On that day let us begin powerful general strike action and a mass movement to stop the regressive labour policies. I am determined that even though I may be in prison I will hear news of the success of our general strike in stopping the government’s policies.
This is a historic struggle, which we can and we must win. More than anyone else, I believe in you!
Valiant members fighting on the ground to defend the KCTU! I send you my love!
Let us defend the livelihoods of Korea’s 20 million workers! Struggle!
Han Sang-gyun
President, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

TiSA Trade Negotiators Undermine Climate Negotiations – Energy Annex‏

The Great Climate Changes Swindle
PSI comments on the newly released TiSA text that limits state control over natural resources

As Heads of State prepare to negotiate an international accord in Paris against global warming, their trade negotiators are meeting in Geneva to secretly forge a new free trade agreement that could expand fossil fuels’ exploitation and cause further climate change.

Wikileaks released yet another raft of leaked texts from the secretive Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Public Services International (PSI) and International Forum on Globalisation today released the first known analysis of the proposed Annex on Energy Related Services to inform the COP 21 climate summit.

The 23 TiSA negotiators, from Australia to Switzerland and including the US and the EU, are discussing binding clauses “denying regulators the right to distinguish solar from nuclear, wind from coal, or geothermal from fracking” by establishing the principle of ‘technological neutrality’. The meeting in Geneva – from November 30 to 4 December – will likely continue discussion on the agenda item called “Environmental Services”, discussed in October.

The proposal would “reduce states sovereignty over energy resources – says Victor Menotti, author of the study – by requiring states to establish free markets for foreign suppliers of energy related services thereby removing the right to ensure domestic economic benefits from exploiting energy resources.”

The European Commission’s website trade page says “The EU will seek to end discrimination against foreign suppliers of environmental services. This means removing the existing barriers – not just abstaining from introducing new restrictions.”

“This is the great climate change swindle. As modest targets are being discussed in Paris, in Geneva the means to achieve them are being negotiated away in the interests of the largest corporations on earth,” commented Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary. “It is becoming clear why our governments try to hide these negotiations by conducting them in secret”.

Pavanelli called on the governments to release the full texts saying “it is a scandal that we rely on Wikileaks to tell us what our governments are doing on our behalf”.

PSI has previously released research showing how the TISA will stop failed privatisations being brought back into public hands, and how it will limit governments’ ability to regulate.

FTUC welcomes ILO Resolution

The FTUC welcomes the decision of the ILO Governing Body on Fiji at its meeting in Geneva on Wednesday 11th November 2015. The Governing Body once again deliberated on the Fiji situation and the lack of progress in complying with the Tripartite Agreement of March 2015 between Government, FTUC and FCEF. The joint Agreement has six action points that parties needed to comply with. They were:
1. That all labour management relations would be governed by the ERP.
2. That all amendments would comply with the ILO Core Labour Standards.
3. That the review of the ERP conducted by the Tripartite Partners in 2013 would be acted upon.
4. That Government would reinstate Check-off (Union Dues deduction)
5. That all the above would be done within a certain time-frame i.e. Legislative amendments to Parliament by end of August 2015 and implementation by end of October 2015
6. That the Parties to the Agreement would submit a joint report to the June 2015 session of the GB.
The Government failed to comply with the above provisions and unilaterally decided upon some amendments to the ERP. As such, no joint report could be made to the Governing Body in June 2015. No meetings were convened despite many requests from FTUC and FCEF. On the eve of this Governing Body meeting, Government convened a reconstituted ERAB meeting which FTUC refused to attend. The Agenda was to rubber stamp a report that Government prepared to the Governing Body. The Government and others, however, met and decided on a monthly meeting to address the violations. Based on this decision, Government attempted through the Asia Pacific Government Grouping (ASPAG) at the ILO to defer the report of any Tripartite Delegation to Fiji to June 2016 and a decision on the Commission of Inquiry by November 2016. This Resolution was put to the Governing Body by the Australian Government and was defeated. Employers, EU and many other Governments supported the Resolution that was originally tabled. This Resolution reiterates its regret to the continuing failure to submit a joint report from Government, FTUC and FCEF. It is noteworthy that the decision recognizes the parties to the joint report that the ILO is seeking. Government is not at liberty to call in whoever it wants to sign on to a joint report. In this respect, the FTUC calls upon Government to disband its new ERAB and re-constitute the original ERAB to meet without delay. FTUC will not be a party to Governments efforts to dilute representative rights to FTUC and FCEF. Such actions on part of Government only serve to undermine the parties to the Geneva Agreement and weaken the social partners.

The GB Decision also now calls on Government to accept a Tripartite Mission to Fiji to review the ongoing obstacles to a joint report and observance of the ILO Core Conventions. Having noted that in the past, there were considerable difficulties in gaining agreement of Government for ILO Missions, the GB also decided that should the Mission not be able to visit Fiji and submit a report by March 2016, then the March 2016 GB should decide on a Commission of Inquiry. The Governing Body has also decided that Fiji would be on the agenda of its March 2016 meeting.
The FTUC and the Workers Group at the ILO also considers the decision to also recognize the efforts of the Minister for Labour and to give him an opportunity to comply with the Agreement signed. We also welcome the efforts of the Minister for Labour and look forward to working with him and FCEF. We reiterate that work on this must begin without delay and not on the eve of the next GB meeting.

This decision gives Government another opportunity to act upon the Agreement without delay. This is an opportunity for Government to do the right thing for Fiji and her international reputation. Failure to act would have serious negative impact on the Country. It cannot simply sit back and play mischief with workers and blaming Unions and its leaders as holding the country to ransom or holding a gun to Government’s head. It must take full responsibility for its failure to act. The Government would be shooting itself in the foot if it does not take up this opportunity.

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

Fiji Teachers Union claims no quality learning in schools

‘No quality learning’

Source: Fiji Times
Siteri Sauvakacolo
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

THE Fiji Teachers Union claims there was no quality learning in schools around the country because of the late arrival of textbooks and other hiccups in the Education Ministry.

FTU general secretary Agni Deo Singh made the comment yesterday as Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy condemned reports by this newspaper regarding the non-delivery of textbooks to schools in Fiji.

Dr Reddy said there were more than 900 schools in the country and the geographical spatial distribution of schools posed challenges this newspaper was not aware of, adding that even though some schools may have not received all textbooks, copies were still made available to schools for teachers to make lesson preparations.

“Communication and transport problems are other issues to consider and The Fiji Times has put it in such a manner that the Ministry of Education is failing in its duty.

“We have with us verification that schools have received their textbooks and I am not sure where The Fiji Times is getting their information from,” Dr Reddy said.

“I hope that The Fiji Times will look at issues from a more realistic and holistic view. They need to face reality and at least report on the positives that has come out on the recent reforms, which is aimed at improving the delivery of educational services,” concluded the minister.

But Mr Singh refuted Dr Reddy’s comments.

“While we understand all the excuses he is giving, he knew of all these challenges when he made this unrealistic commitment and we had brought this to the attention of the ministry on numerous occasions during the first term when until April, less than half the textbooks had been distributed.

“And as late as the beginning of the second term, many schools were not adequately resourced with textbooks,” Mr Singh said.

“And of course now towards the end of the year, The Fiji Times has been able to identify some schools that are still yet to receive textbooks. Now it is 12 months down the line, I don’t think the excuse the minister is giving now holds any water.”

MP urges open dialogue

Source: Fiji Times

Vuniwaqa Bola-Bari
Wednesday, November 11, 2015

FORMER unionist turned Member of Parliament Mikaele Leawere has pleaded with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama to talk to the unions and discuss issues of mutual interest with them.

Mr Leawere said this as he also refuted claims by Mr Bainimarama that unions were holding the country to ransom.

Mr Bainimarama earlier said the country “cannot allow a relatively small group of people to hold the nation to ransom by misrepresenting us and our circumstances to the rest of the world and disrupting our industries and services”.

Mr Leawere said this was far from the truth.

“I plead with the Prime Minister to talk to the unions and discuss issues of mutual interest with them,” Mr Leawere said.

“Mr Alain Pelce, senior international labour standards specialist at the International Labour Organization, was in Fiji to submit the organisation’s position on the ERP Amendment Bill No.10, 2015 at their own expense.

“Government did not comply with ILO conventions regarding ENI decrees, bargaining units, freedom of association,” Mr Leawere said.

He added unions had been working under stressful conditions and every move they made was covered with decrees.

“This makes it virtually impossible to go against them (Government), especially freedom of speech and the right to collective bargaining.

“To say that unions are damaging the jobs of other workers is mischievous because the upper hand is with the Government and every movement they make is being thwarted all the way,” he said.

The former unionist with the Fijian Teachers Association said “the presence of ILO and other unionists during the consultations did provide the much needed platform to submit what they needed Government to hear.

“Unions are made up of very good people who have the country and workers’ interest at heart and the last thing they want to see is to create instability in as far as the economy is concerned.”

Protect Country- Opposition tells PM ( FT 10.11.15)

Protect country, State told

Source: Fiji Times news article:  Nov 10th 2015.
By Keresi Nauwakarawa
Tuesday, November 10, 2015

OPPOSITION spokesman for State Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Ratu Sela Nanovo says the State should protect Fiji from the negative impact that complements an International Labour Organization Commission of Inquiry.

In a statement Ratu Sela responded to Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s statement that unions and workers representatives were holding the country to ransom over the standoff with the ILO.

Ratu Sela said Mr Bainimarama owed an apology to the Fiji Trades Union Congress.

“The Prime Minister and his Government should stop playing their foolish games, face the facts and start telling the truth.

“On the ILO agreement, the people should understand that the only reason an ILO Commission of Inquiry will be convened is if the Fiji First Government continues to drag its feet and fails to comply with its own undertaking that it signed in the Tripartite Agreement of March 2015.

“So the Government should just get on with it and protect the country from the negative impact of a commission of inquiry.”

Ratu Sela said the draft decision by the ILO and Government, employers and union representatives was brief and very clear.

The statement reads:

“Regretting the continuing failure to submit a joint implementation report to the Governing Body in accordance with the Tripartite Agreement signed by the Government of the Republic of Fiji, the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) and the Fiji Commerce and Employers’ Federation (FCEF) on 25 March 2015, and as requested by the Governing Body at its 324th Session (June 2015), the Governing Body decides:

* To call on the Government of Fiji to accept a tripartite mission to review the ongoing obstacles to the submission of a joint implementation report and consider all matters pending in the article 26 complaint;

* That, if the tripartite mission did not take place in time for a report to the 326th Session of the Governing Body (March 2016), then the 326th Session should take a decision on the appointment of a commission of inquiry under article 26; and

* To place this question on the agenda of its 326th Session.”

We remain steadfast in our struggle for restoration of workers’ rights in Fiji- Anthony

The FTUC remains steadfast in its struggle for the restoration of workers rights in Fiji. It is often forgotten that it was FTUC that negotiated with Governments and Employers representatives for the change in Labour Laws in Fiji after the so called Labour Reforms imposed in 1989 by the Rabuka interim Government. It was the FTUC representatives in Parliament that saw the passage of the Employment Relations Bill in Parliament in 2006 just prior to the Coup in December 2006. It was FTUC that persevered to ensure that the Bill which got stuck in the Senate on the day the Coup took place was implemented in 2007 as the ERP that all workers in Fiji today derive their rights from. The Tripartite partners (Government, FCEF and FTUC) agreed that a review of the ERP should be conducted after 5 years of it being in effect to address any shortcomings. This comprehensive review was conducted 2012 -2013 by the Tripartite partners. The implementation of this review is part of the Geneva Agreement.
It is unfortunate that many people who in the comfort of their homes and offices have no idea the work that FTUC has put in to improve the lives of working people. Yes there is still much to be achieved, more so after the draconian decrees since 2009. That work and struggle continues which is why FTUC has pursued the matter with ILO, ITUC, EU and many governments around the world.
Some believe that FTUC ought to only seek a Commission of Inquiry (COI) at the ILO and should not enter into any dialogue with Government. They believe that any dialogue is a sign of weakness. I disagree. Dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect is the only way to effectively resolve the impasse. Even if a COI is decided by ILO, the Tripartite partners will at some point have to enter into dialogue to resolve matters in dispute. The COI is not an end in self but a means to an end. It is to achieve a speedy resolution. The FTUC is focused on achieving the desired results and not to punish the Government or the Country.
We have had fruitful discussions with the new Minister for Labour last Saturday. Certain matters in dispute have been agreed to and we await their implementation. Further discussions are planned on outstanding issues. I have been warned by many that Government will not honor any agreement as it did not honor the Geneva Agreement. There is some merit in this advice. However, I am willing to enter into discussions with the new Minister and give him the opportunity to address the issues in dispute between Government and FTUC. We have agreed that the Geneva Agreement must be implemented. A COI will seek to do the same if appointed. Many talk of trade sanctions without having any understanding of how these happen. Many are ignorant enough to think a COI will solve all the problems and sanctions would be automatic. This is far from reality.

The FTUC will not be moved by professional critics and fly by night experts on these matters. Many of whom have never lifted a finger for workers in Fiji in the most difficult of times let alone do something that would have benefited workers in Fiji. These very people were nowhere to be seen or heard when Many including I were beaten up for what we stand for or when Daniel Urai and I were jailed for about 2 weeks for Trade Union activity in 2011. Yet they today stand on rooftops and make all the noise about what Trade Unions and in particular FTUC should do. They have become champions of workers’ overnight
In today’s Fiji where humour is essential to keep us all sane, we thank this lot for the entertainment and the fact that their blind hypocrisy is amusing.

The FTUC will persevere to achieve worker’s rights and dignity at work.

The Nobel Prize Is for Labor Movements around the World

Adapted from the Solidarity Center AFL-CID

By Tula Connell

The Tunisian General Labor Union (Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, UGTT), a longtime Solidarity Center partner, was at the forefront of the four organizations that recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler said today. In a ceremony at the AFL-CIO honoring UGTT Secretary-General Houcine Abassi, Shuler praised Abassi’s courage and tenacity and called the UGTT’s work “inspirational to us in the United States.”

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler welcomed UGTT Secretary-General Houcine Abassi in a ceremony honoring his work. Credit: Solidarity Center/Kate Conradt

In his remarks, Abassi said “the Nobel Prize is not given just to us, but to all the labor movements in the world.” The award “sends a message that unions can play an equal role in government, in social dialogue …  and many times can provide critical leadership.” Abassi is in Washington, D.C., this week to receive the Fairness Award presented by the Global Fairness Initiative. Solidarity Center ally Myrtle Witbooi, general secretary of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union, is a co-recipient of the award.

In October, the Nobel Committee recognized the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet—comprised of the (UGTT); the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts; the Tunisian Human Rights League; and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers—for establishing “an alternative, peaceful political process at a time when the country was on the brink of civil war.”

Abassi described the many hours of dialogue in the months after the 2011 Arab uprising deposed longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and ushered in a period of economic and political uncertainty. As a key participant in the discussions, the UGTT succeeded in including collective bargaining rights and the right to strike in the country’s new constitution, which Tunisians approved in 2014. Through the UGTT’s efforts, the constitution also enshrines many more fundamental social and economic rights for Tunisians.

The Tunisian union movement has been in the forefront of the struggle for democracy and social equality since its formation in 1946. Following the country’s independence from colonial rule in 1956, the organization played a key role in establishing a road map for national development that made Tunisia the most advanced economy in the Arab Maghreb.

In the months after the 2011 uprising, the UGTT employed direct action when mass mobilization was needed to shore up democratic principles like women’s rights and freedom of speech, all top priorities for Tunisian unions.

“Ever since its founding, the UGTT went very much beyond the traditional role of labor unions,” pushing for freedom and democracy and inclusive participation of all civil society in governance, Abassi said.

This is the second consecutive year that worker rights activists and Solidarity Center allies have been honored with a Nobel Peace Prize. Last year Kailash Satyarthi, head of the Global March against Child Labor, shared the prize with girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai.

In 2012, the UGTT received the AFL-CIO’s 2012 George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award along with the labor federation of Bahrain, the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, for their mobilization of thousands of people in their countries to carry forward a message of social justice during the 2011 uprisings.

ILO Director General emphasizes Tripartism

National Secretary FTUC Mr Felix Anthony with Director General ILO Mr Guy Ryder

The Director General of ILO addressed the Regional General Council on Sunday 25th October and outlined the challenges faced by ILO and its focus on the world of work. He discussed the prevailing issues faced in the region with Council members.

The DG also was the key speaker at the Tripartite Forum on Monday 26th October. He stressed the importance of Tripartism. The DG however warned that Tripartism must not be misused only in difficult times. The success of Tripartism will only be realised if it is genuine based on trust and is not an opportunist Tripartism in difficult times. Tripartism must be permanent in good and bad times where the partners acted in a sincere manner. He stressed that Tripartism is the only way for countries to realise their full potential.

Tripartite partners from Barbados, Norway, Singapore and Sweden also participated.

Mr Anthony with the Prime Minister of Singapore

The PM of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, was the main speaker at the occasion of a dinner hosted by NTUC (Singapore Union National Center) on Monday 26th October.

The Prime Minister  spoke on the unique partnership that the Government enjoyed with the Trade Union Movement and the Employers Federation. He stated that the relationship was crucial to the success of Singapore as a nation. He assured the Trade Unions of the Government’s commitment to the workers and urged the new leaders of NTUC to continue to work for the workers of the country and also in the national interest.

TUNISIAN UNION AS PART OF A QUARTET WINS 2015 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

National Secretary FTUC with his Tunisian General Labour Union counterpart

The little known Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet left some people wondering why a string quartet would win the Nobel Peace Prize.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow provides the real story on the group that brought together people across Tunisian society, from trade unions, employers, human rights groups and lawyers to forge a peaceful democratic transition.

***

Every year in October there is a collective moment when the world thinks about peace, and the individuals and institutions who make peace happen.

The Nobel Peace Prize has traditionally put the spotlight on the work of stateswomen and men Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Barrack Obama, civil rights activists Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi and organisations and institutes from the European Union to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

With wars and battles being waged from Yemen to Afghanistan, Syria to the Democratic Republic of Congo and many more street corners in between – talk of peace has a hollow meaning for millions of people denied a voice by the power of bombs and artillery.

As the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the winner of the 2015 to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, the power of the collective voice of people was finally recognised on the global stage.

The ILO’s Director General Guy Ryder went to the heart of the Dialogue’s significance with a new twitter hashtag welcoming the award: ‪#‎socialdialogueworks‬.

As the only UN body which has a formal tripartite structure with employers unions and governments having an equal say, the ILO sets global standards for our workplace economies and democracies – which provide the foundations for peace in all societies.

While the 2015 Peace Prize celebrates the work of Tunisian society to forge a peaceful and stable future, it also puts in the spotlight the dialogue that underpins progress in many countries in our world.

The Nordic model of dialogue and collective bargaining has reigned in the rising inequality faced by many nations including the US and India.

Germany’s model of corporate co-determination and strong collective bargaining has held firm a strong economy and introduced a new national minimum wage.

In the Netherlands, unions, governments and employers are negotiating a tripartite compact to realise rights in global supply chains.

Workers, employers and the government have negotiated the basis for a new labour law in Oman, representing all workers including migrant workers.

Unions successfully mobilised against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, and resisted military dictatorships by organising strikes and mass protests in countries such as Brazil.

After years of negotiation a constitution and stable democracy is being realised in Nepal, with unions and civil society partners in dialogue with the government.

And the UGTT in Tunisia as part of the National Dialogue Quartet mobilised and negotiated the countries democratic transition while avoiding the level of bloodshed suffered in other countries during the “Arab Spring”.

Unions were the driving force behind the drafting of a Tunisian constitution which guaranteed fundamental principles such as the separation of powers, and independent judiciary, freedom of association, the right to organise and the right to strike.

These rights, and the dialogue through which they were achieved are the real winners of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.

The irony will not be lost on us that many of those governments that choose to praise the winners of the peace prize, are at the same time attempting to destroy and undermine social dialogue in their own countries, as they close down democratic space.

Austerity policies and the attack on wages and social protection has driven the world to the brink of another recession.

Belgium historically had the space for the social dialogue that was a hallmark of a European way of doing business, but these are under attack and social unrest growing. Earlier this week thousands of workers and their families took to the streets to demand to be heard, after growing discontent with the government

In the UK the Trade Union Bill is the fiercest attack on workers’ rights in a century, undermining the right to strike and peacefully protest.

Across the world, there has been immense increase in the number of arbitrary arrests and detentions of workers for exercising their rights in a legitimate and peaceful manner. According to the findings of the 2015 ITUC Global Rights Index, the number of countries where these were used to silence and intimidate activists rose from 35 to 44 in the past year.

Trade unions have stood at the frontlines of struggles for democratic change and social justice throughout history. In many countries we are the organised voice of oppositions to governments operating at the behest of corporate power and vested interests.

This historic award recognised that unions and social dialogue are vital for peace democratic rights and equality. It’s a reminder to the world, in the face of workers’ rights being stripped away, that if you build unions and social dialogue, you build democracy.

State yet to deliver on ILO Geneva Agreement

Adapted from a report in the Fiji Times: Dated 2nd Oct 2015.

GOVERNMENT wanted tripartite discussions on the review of labour laws to be held with a wider forum apart from the Fiji Trades Union Congress and Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation.

This was the statement by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at the opening of the FCEF’s TOPEX Conference on Thursday. He mentioned that upon his return from Geneva, he wanted  an expanded ERAB (Employment Relations Advisory Board) in place.

“Let’s not just have FTUC and FCEF, let’s get a bigger cross-section of representation.

“Let’s get some other unions and umbrella organisations.

“We were told, if you do it, we will go back to Geneva and say you breached the agreement.

“So we were forced to go into ERAB with that limited number, with only FTUC, FCEF and Government and we came up with the amendments to the ERP.”

FTUC National  Secretary Felix Anthony refuted the claims and said the A-G needed to be more truthful if discussions among the three parties could progress in a collaborative manner.

“The Attorney-General needs to tell the whole story,” Mr Anthony said.

“Prior to ERAB, we had the Labour Advisory Board where the workers were always represented by the FTUC and the employers by FCEF.

“And another important point the A-G needs to acknowledge is the agreement signed in Geneva in March this year was between FTUC, FCEF and the Government.

“No other party was involved.”

An agreement was signed by Government, FTUC and FCEF in March this year to defer a Commission of Inquiry — the International Labour Organisation highest-level investigative procedure that is generally set up when a member State is accused of committing persistent and serious violations, and has repeatedly refused to address them.

Fiji was flagged after serious breaches of ILO core conventions in regards to decrees and labour laws introduced by the Government, including the Essential National Industries Decree.

Mr. Agni Singh replies to Fiji Sun

September 20, 2015

The Editor

Fiji Sun

Suva

Jytoi Prabhas’s article in the Fiji Sun  claiming  “Unions Overseas Rant exposed (FS 18/9) Fiji Sun 18.09 Singh gets slammed  is misleading as well as mischievous. Let me clarify that this was not the first time I expressed concern on the non restoration of Trade Union Rights.

I have said this at numerous forums locally including the Annual General Meeting of the Union in May 2015. The only difference is that the media did not care to publicize them. We had also sent to the media copies of resolutions on all matters of concern we had submitted to the Ministry. The bullying tactic of the Ministry was clearly demonstrated when it threatened to withdraw the check off system for the social security contribution of the members of the sister Union when a statement was made by the Union against the Education Ministers leadership style. The Union had to apologize to him publicly because it was held at ransom.

Reduction of the ENTRY POINT salary of teachers with Certificates, Diplomas and Degrees from $16000, $18000 and $23000 respectively to $12,360 in 2015 is a fact .This is in clear breach of the Job Evaluation Agreement signed by the parties in 1998. In response to the Ministers statement earlier in the year that “these teachers do not have any experience and have to be tested for a year” I had stated on FBC TV that the teachers have graduated after satisfactorily completing their courses including 6 months of practical attachment. The Minister’s rhetoric that MOE has provided employment to those without jobs is baseless. The fact is that MOE has exploited these teachers who were in search of jobs. Having two sets of salaries for the same job is exploitation and against labor laws.

I had further stated that several Ministers neither posses relevant qualification nor experience. Perhaps they need to be put on probation at a lower salary.

It is high time the Ministry engages with all the stakeholders it has distanced itself from, restores all structures of consultation and gives due recognition to the Unions as legitimate representatives of their members.

The Government needs to honor the MOU it signed in Geneva and totally restore the rights of workers in the country.

The faith of my members in my leadership is demonstrated by the steady increase in membership in the last decade despite the cessation of check off system. The membership of FTU is almost the same as the total number of votes Hon Reddy received in the last election.

Yes Jyoti, I am pragmatic and level headed. I have left no stone unturned to seek dialogue with the Ministry. Numerous letters remain unanswered. What else do you expect?

 

Agni Deo Singh

GENERAL SECRETARY

Fiji Teachers Union

Workers Demand Accountability: FTUC

FTUC PRESS RELEASE NO 80/09/15

 Workers Demand Accountability- Anthony

The Fiji Trades Union Congress is alarmed at the decision of the Chairman of Vodafone Fiji Ltd to award from Company funds sixty thousand dollars ($60,000) to the Prime Minister and his wife to attend the Rugby World Cup Tournament in London. The Chairman claimed that the Prime Minister had done so much for Rugby in the Country. We certainly don’t think so. It is time that the Chairman of Vodafone is reminded that Vodafone is owned by ATH which is about 60% owned by FNPF. That is the workers’ money. The remainder of the shares in ATH is majority owned by Government, which is taxpayer’s funds. It is not up to the Chairman of Vodafone, who is the Chairman of ATH and who is the “Executive Chairman of FNPF to hand out workers and taxpayers funds as charity. Good sense on part of the Prime Minister would dictate that he would not accept such favors and blatantly use public funds to enjoy rugby with his family in London. The Prime Minister must also be reminded that he is elected to serve and not be served.

This unfortunate incident brings to the fore the pressing issue of good governance principles in public enterprises and that are listed on the Stock Exchange. For too long Government and the Stock Exchange have turned a blind eye to the practice of Board Members acting as Executive Chairman of the same Company. Here we have the Chairman of Vodafone who is Chair for ATH and acting as Executive Chair of FNPF, even though he may not be called by that title. The question is where is the demarcation between Management of the Organisation and the Board of that Organisation. The Board of any such Organisation must oversee the operations of Management and set in place policy. In the FNPF case, there can be no oversight as the same person acts in both positions. This clearly is not observing good governance principles. The next question is, why is there no effort made in the appointment of a Chief Executive Officer of FNPF and what has the Reserve Bank got to say about the current situation. The Reserve Bank has oversight responsibilities on all financial institutions including FNPF.

Similar situation exist in Tropikwood Industries Limited where we have an Executive Chairman in Mr. Faiz Khan. In fact Faiz Khan is Executive Chair of the Pine Group of Companies and also Fiji Forest Industries Ltd. Faiz Khan is also Executive Chairman of Airports Fiji Limited which has embarked on a multi-million dollar expansion program at Nadi airport. Negotiation on the sale of the airport is also being considered. Similar situation exist in Fiji Sugar Corporation, where we have an Executive Chairman in Mr. Abdul Khan. Similar situation exist in Biosecurity Authority of Fiji Limited(BAF) where Mr. Xavier Khan is the Executive Chairman. These are examples of how Government owned enterprises must never operate. Good Governance principles demand demarcation or separation between the Board and Management, accountability and transparency.

It has now become common practice that Government owned enterprises spend lavishly when welcoming the Prime Minister or his Ministers on visits. The FTUC calls on Government and those in positions of authority to stop the abuse of public funds for personal survival. This is a form for bribery and corruption. We demand that all positions of Executive Chairman be disbanded immediately and proper appointments of Chief Executive Officers be made in all these organisations in the public interest.

 

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

FCEF and Government must honor Agreement to avert Commission of Inquiry

FTUC PRESS RELEASE NO 79/08/15
FCEF and Government must honor Agreement to avert Commission Of Inquiry

It is unfortunate that the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation have issued a statement stating that it would support the Government’s decision not to support a ILO Commission of Inquiry. In other words, they support the Government position.
The FCEF is a party to the Agreement signed in Geneva in March together with the Government to ensure that all labour laws comply with the ILO Core Conventions, re-instatement of check off, the ERP being the primary Labour Management Relations Legislation, review and negotiate all amendments agreed to by all three parties prior to the agreement, to submit a joint report and to urge the ILO Governing body to defer a decision on the Commission of Inquiry to November 2015. Despite this agreement, the FCEF is aware that it is Government that is refusing to get to the table and start the process. FCEF have unsuccessfully made many attempts to get Government to the table. The FTUC similarly made many attempts. Government has failed to respond.

We remind FCEF that there was a clear understanding that the parties would act in good faith and address all the issues that was covered by the Agreement in good time. We also remind FCEF that it agreed to defer a decision on the Commission of Inquiry until November 2015 after FCEF and Government gave a unconditional undertaking to act on the Agreement. Now that Government has not acted according to the agreement, FCEF must do the honorable thing and tell the Governing body that it has been unsuccessful and the only option left is a Commission of Inquiry as agreed. No doubt the image of the Country will suffer. The Government must take responsibility for its actions and inactions. It has been given more than sufficient time to act. Government has not given any reasons as to why it has decided not to honor the Agreement.
The Resolution of the June Governing Body is also very clear in this respect. The FTUC will strongly support a Commission of Inquiry and we are currently in the process of preparing our report to the Governing Body.

 

Felix Anthony
National Secretary

Australian Unions calls for Fiji Unions to be allowed into sugar mills.

Australian Council of Trade Unions( ACTU)  President

ACTU calls for Fiji unions to be allowed in sugar mills

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-24/actu-calls-for-fiji-unions-to-be-allowed-in-sugar/6721112

Updated 24 Aug 2015, 6:32pm

Australia’s Council of Trade Unions has called for unions to be able to operate freely in Fiji’s sugar mills, following two accidents recently.

One man was killed and another seriously burned in accidents at the Rarawai Mill in Ba, and local union leaders accused the Fiji Sugar Corporation of not taking safety concerns seriously enough.

ACTU President Ged Kearney says the industrial accidents at the mill show why unions exist, and why they should not be kept out of workplaces just because the government deems them essential industries.

Bruce Hill

Source: Pacific Beat | Duration: 4min 57sec

 

Commission of Inquiry into Fiji Looms as Govt fails again

Government Fails Again
It is now apparent that the Fiji Government has no intention of honoring the Tripartite Agreement signed in Geneva on 25th March 2015 with the FTUC and FCEF. The Agreement was signed after negotiations between the FTUC and Government, at Governments insistence to avoid an ILO Commission of Inquiry into Fiji. The Agreement called for the Government to:

1. Ensure that the ERP remains the primary basis for labour management relations.
2. To review all labour laws and ensure compliance with ILO Core Conventions
3. Include the review already conducted by ERAB in 2013.
4. Negotiate and agree any other issues any Party may raise.
5. Restore check-off facilities immediately
6. Submit a joint implementation report to the June session of ILO Governing Body.

The Agreement also required Government to ensure that labour law review was completed and presented to Parliament by end of August 2015 and implemented by end of October 2015. Based on the above undertaking by Government, the Governing Body agreed to defer a decision on the Commission of Inquiry until the November 2015 Session. Government on its own accord made some changes to the Employment Relations Promulgation without the agreement of FTUC through an Amendment Bill in Parliament on 8th July 2015. These amendments fall far short of the agreement signed and in breach of that agreement. None of the six agreed matters have been complied with fully. The ERP has been amended to include provisions from the ENI Decree which was never agreed to. Compliance falls far short of ILO requirements. The inclusions of the earlier review and other matters have not been done at all. Check off is only partially restored. A joint report was not submitted because of Governments insistence of its own version of the report which was factually incorrect. This has once again been a show of bad faith and the fact that this Government cannot be trusted on its word, even if it has signed an agreement witnessed by the Director General of ILO.

The FTUC  on 9th June 2015 requested Government to set a date for Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) to meet and deal with the issues in the Agreement. The Solicitor General’s office advised on 10th June 2015 that they would advise at a later date. Since, 3 other reminders have been sent without a response from Government. The National Secretary of FTUC visited the Minister of Labour on two occasions to follow up on the request on Friday 24th July 2015 and Tuesday 11th August 2015. On both occasions FTUC was advised that Government would revert and advise as to when we could meet. In addition to this FCEF has made several requests to Government for meetings and were advised of the same.

Quite apart from the breach of the Agreement, the current implementation of the ERP at best can be described as very poor. Disputes reported by Unions take more than a year or two to be accepted in breach of the ERP. Matters before the Arbitration Tribunal can take 5 years or more to be heard and judgment can be reserved indefinitely again in breach of the provisions of the ERP. Excess into workplaces are being denied and a good example is the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) despite the laws allowing excess. Amalgamations of unions are withheld despite laws being followed by unions. These are just some examples which have been repeatedly brought to the Ministry’s attention without any action taken. The ILO Conventions are not only about laws being compliant but also about practice. These will be highlighted in the FTUC report.

The Parties are to submit a joint implementation report to the next Governing Body meeting of ILO in Early November. The deadline for the submission of this report is mid-October. Since the meetings have not taken place, it is no longer possible to submit a joint report as required by the Governing Body of ILO. We put on record that the failure is on part of the Government and it must take full responsibility for the outcome of the November Governing Body meeting. It cannot blame FTUC. The Attorney General’s recent comment that Fiji will not accept a Commission of Inquiry again demonstrates his arrogance and ignorance of the ILO procedures. Such demonstration of blatant disregard and breach of the Agreement and numerous undertakings, given by the Prime Minister and numerous other Government officials and Ministers at many ILO meetings, to respect workers’ rights and adhere to ILO Conventions, firmly relegates Fiji into the league of rouge nations.

The FTUC remains steadfast in its struggle to ensure restoration of workers’ rights and dignity at work. In the circumstances, it will strongly support a Commission of Inquiry into Fiji.

 

20th Aug 230pm

Ends

FTUC National Secretary elected ITUC AP President in Kerela Conference

The National Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, Mr. Felix Anthony was elected President of the world regional trade union organisation, the International Trade Union Confederation Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP). The ITUC-AP, headquartered in Singapore, is the largest of the 4 Regional Organizations of the International Trade Union Confederation which is based in Brussels. These four regional organizations of the ITUC are ITUC AP (Asia Pacific), ITUC AF (African), the ETUC (European Unions) and the American Regional Organization TUCA.

The ITUC-AP covers a vast area including the middle-east countries, the entire Asian countries and the Pacific. It has a membership of more than 23 million workers from 60 countries in the region. Mr. Anthony was elected at the Regional Conference held in Kochi, India from 1st August to 3rd August. The Conference was attended by almost all affiliates from the Region and elections were held by secret ballot. He is the first Fijian Trade Union leader to be elected to this most senior position in the Region. The election of Mr. Anthony is significant and recognition for the work that he has undertaken as National Secretary of FTUC and as member of the ITUC-AP Executive Board. This is indeed a proud moment for the Trade Union movement in Fiji and the Pacific.

The ITUC –AP is an independent and democratic workers organization to which national Trade Union Organisations of Unions are affiliated and is governed by the a Regional General Council and the Executive Bureau.

This historical achievement at the Regional Conference of the Asia Pacific Trade Unions is a huge milestone for workers of the Asia Pacific region and specifically Fiji and the FTUC. Mr. Anthony’s many distinguished achievements in the struggle for workers’ rights in Fiji and the Asia Pacific also includes his membership of the ILO Governing Body. The term of office for the President of the Asia Pacific Regional Organisation of unions is of four years.

 

ENDS

FTUC Against new anti-labour Act

FTUC against Act

Felix Chaudhary
Tuesday, July 14, 2015

THE inclusion of more sectors on the list of essential industries, bargaining units acting like trade unions, and workers in essential industries being denied the right to strike all contravene International Labour Organization core conventions, says Fiji Trades Union Congress national secretary Felix Anthony.

“We put Government on notice that FTUC will vigorously pursue these matters at the ILO,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.

“The responsibility of the outcome must be borne by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and his Government.”

Mr Anthony said the FTUC strongly refuted the A-G’s claim that the Employment Relations (Amendment) Act was compliant with core ILO conventions.

“The Act has serious shortcomings and is also a demonstration of Government not adhering to the Tripartite Agreement that it signed with the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation and FTUC and witnessed by the director general of ILO,” Mr Anthony said.

The Tripartite Agreement, he said, called for the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 to be the primary legislation governing labour management relations in the country.

“This Government amended the ERP and included in it parts of the Essential National Industries Decree that it claimed is repealed. This is a contradiction it conveniently ignored.

“The Government also undertook to ensure that all its labour laws would comply with ILO core conventions.

“The essential industries remain the same as in the ENI Decree which was subject of ILO committee of experts report urging Government to ensure that ‘essential industries’ are those that threaten the life, safety and health of people.

“If anything at all, the amendments in the Act expand the coverage of the definition of ‘essential services’ to all Government-owned enterprises which now includes PAFCO and FSC which were previously excluded.”

Mr Anthony said the Amendment Act allowed bargaining units to continue to exist and behave like unions.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had said the two issues raised by the ILO — freedom of association and collective bargaining had been addressed in the Employment Relations (Amendment) Bill.

“The first one has been addressed by way of saying that anybody that may be under an essential industry in any particular category has the right to join a union or they can have a collective bargaining unit,” he said.

“We have complied with the ILO convention in terms of freedom of association.”

Source: Fiji Times 14th July 2015

ERP Amendment Act remains non-compliant

Press Release July 10th 2015

Employment Relations Promulgation (amendment) Act Remains Non-Compliant

The FTUC refutes the claim by the Attorney General that the Employment Relations Promulgation  (amendment) Act is compliant with the Core ILO Conventions. This is far from the truth. The Act has serious shortcomings and is also a demonstration of Government not adhering to the Tripartite Agreement that it signed with the FCEF and FTUC and witnessed by the Director General of ILO. It is clear from the debate in Parliament that the Government side totally ignored its obligation to adhere to the Agreement and also demonstrated its ignorance of the ILO Core Conventions.

The Tripartite Agreement called for the ERP 2007 to be the primary legislation governing “labour management relations in Fiji”. This Government amended the ERP and included in it parts the ENI Decree that it claimed is repealed. This is a contradiction it conveniently ignored. The Government also undertook to ensure that all its labour laws would comply with ILO Core Conventions. The essential Industries remain the same as in the ENI Decree which was subject of ILO Committee of Experts report urging Government to ensure that “essential Industries” are those that threaten the life, safety and health of people. This issue is crystal clear in the reports and yet we have the AG attempting to mislead people into believing that the Amendment Act now complies with ILO Standards. How does the Pine Industry or the Banking Industry or Fiji Airways threaten anyone’s safety, health or life? If anything at all, the amendments in the Act expand the coverage of the definition of “essential services” to all Government owned enterprises which now includes PAFCO and FSC which were previously excluded. This is just one example.

The other is the Bargaining Units which have been imported from the ENI Decree. This Amendment Act allows the Bargaining Units to continue to exist and behave like Unions. Clearly an attempt again to undermine legitimate trade Unions. It also restricts members of the bargaining unit to form a Union until and unless majority of members of the bargaining unit vote to form a union. This is a serious restriction on Freedom of Association which the AG claims is fully restored. Undermining Trade Unions is definitely not a show of good faith. In addition, Prison Officers are still being excluded and deprived of their Right to Associate. This has been made clear in the Committee of Experts report on C87 . The Sub Committee also does not consider Prison Officers as disciplined forces. Only the AG does.

The third example is the Right to Strike. All workers classified as “essential workers” do not have the right to strike. Provisions of the Amendment Act deny in practice these workers the right to strike as there are provisions for compulsory mediation and arbitration. Without the right to strike, the ability for Unions to effectively collective bargain is restricted quite apart from the fact that the right to strike is a fundamental right under ILO Convention 87. The right to strike does not mean that Unions want to go on strike as the AG would like all to believe. It is a right that can be exercised if and when necessary. Strikes only become a necessity when employers behave unreasonably or unfairly and is the last resort. The FTUC also agrees that strikes in such situations must adhere to a procedure which Unions and Employers must observe. It is not a right to strike without notice as the AG claimed.

All these were repeatedly submitted to the Parliamentary Sub Committee by various stakeholders and the ERAB Sub Committee but were ignored by Government. It is now clear the Parliamentary Sub Committee was just a show to the public that Government was consulting when in fact it had no desire to listen and act. The FTUC has repeatedly cautioned Government of the shortcomings in the Amendment Act to fully comply with the ILO Core Conventions. It is now apparent that the AG wishes to believe his own bluff and mislead people. We say that he can continue to do so at his own peril. He must not blame FTUC for raising the same issues at ILO in November as that appears now to be the only option left. Government has gone deaf on these facts.

The Fiji Governments reputation as one that cannot be trusted will also be reinforced in November for its total disregard for the Tripartite Agreement that it has signed. The Government appears to think that it is alright to sign agreements at international forums in full knowledge and presence of the Governing Body of ILO Comprising of Employers, Governments and Workers representatives from around the world, witnessed by the Director General of ILO and then totally disregard it. We put Government on notice that FTUC will vigorously pursue these matters at ILO. The responsibility of the outcome must be borne by the AG and his Government.

All these issues are coupled by the controversy that surrounds the departure of the ILO Regional Director from Fiji so suddenly. The FTUC is fully aware of the circumstances and will pursue this matter with ILO. The Government has much to explain in regards to its conduct in this instance. This is not the first time that this Government has acted in such a brash manner with ILO, the last being the expulsion of the ILO Contacts mission. It certainly is a slow learner.

Felix Anthony

National Secretary

10th July 2015

Version 1 Bill-No-10-Employment-Relations-(2)(7)

Final version -Bill-No-10-Employment-Relations-(Amendment)-with-Amendment-(1)(1)

Report on ERP Amendments by Sub Com

No Invitation to Talks- FTUC

Adapted from Fiji Sun July 09 07 15

The Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) remains defiant that there is nothing to talk about.

Refer newslink http://fijisun.com.fj/2015/07/09/ftuc-still-defiant-claims-no-talks/

Its national president Daniel Urai was commenting on the public statement made by the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama issuing an open invitation to the unions to come to the negotiation table with an open mind with a desire to move the nation forward.

Mr Urai said there was no official invite by the Prime Minister to end the stand-off between the Government and FTUC over labour law reforms. The reforms are in the Employment Relations Promulgation Bill (2015) passed by Parliament yesterday.

Mr Bainimarama said during a break from Parliament yesterday: “We just finished debating a major piece of legislation that concerns them, and all what we’ve been talking about in terms of labour relations. In terms of my open invitation to them, they should have been here, listening to what was being said.”

Mr Urai said: “We haven’t received any invite from him, all we are reading is through the media,” Mr Urai said.

“On the first part in the article he is inviting the unions and secondly in the same article he runs down the union by saying that the union representatives were using their union seats for political gains.

“Is that the way to invite someone, even if it is coming from the Prime Minister, is it how you send an invite,” he said.

He said, if the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, had made it clear that they were in compliance with the core values of the International Labour Organisation than what was the purpose of this invite.

“We all know that the FTUC and the Government signed an agreement in Geneva and it was tabled in Parliament,” he said.

“What we said is that what was tabled was not something that was agreed on.”

He said since there were disagreements, they wrote to the ILO in regards to it and the Attorney-General responded saying they were in compliance with the ILO.

“So if the A-G is saying that they are being compliant with the labour law than what is left there to talk about, what is the purpose of the invite? Mr Urai said.

When asked if they would still go and meet the PM if an official invite was sent to FTUC, Mr Urai said it was unlikely for the invite to come.

“We haven’t got any invite from the PM and I am not sure if he will do so.”

Parliament passes ERP Amendment Bill despite huge opposition

The FTUC is appalled that Parliament has passed the Bill No 10 : An Act to Amend the Employment Relations Promulgation,  without considering its implications.

Adapted from newslink- Fiji Sun July 9th 2015. http://fijisun.com.fj/2015/07/09/we-comply-with-core-ilo-values-says-a-g/

The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the new Employment Relations Promulgation (Amendment) Bill allowed the right to collective bargaining and the right to free association.

He said this complied with the core values of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The ERP Bill was endorsed by Parliament yesterday after a report on the Bill was submitted by the chairman of the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights, Ashneel Sudhakar.

Mr Sudhakar said a lot of work had been put into the report that provided the basis for the amendments.

“Therefore, it becomes important for any government to provide employment laws which not only protects its workers and allows certain freedoms, but are also consistent with international conventions,” he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum revealed that some of the unique provisons of the new law included arbitration courts that helped prevent discrimination against workers suffering from HIV/AIDS.

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad suggested that the Government was inviting a Commission of Inquiry by the ILO, because he alleged that there were still loopholes in the new Bill.

However, Minister for Health Jone Usamate praised the bill for its holistic approach to dealing with labour issues .

Korean Court affirms Right To Unionism for Migrant Workers

In a landmark decision, Korea’s Supreme Court has now ruled that undocumented migrant workers have the right to unionise, eight years after the migrant workers’ trade union MTU first launched its legal action.

The government refused to register the MTU and engaged in a targeted crackdown by arresting and deporting its leaders. The Court’s ruling that these workers are included in the scope of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Adjustment Act is a major victory against the staunchly anti-union government.

Udaya Rai, President of the MTU said, “We, the migrant workers, have the right to form a union. It took no less than eight years for the litigation because the government didn’t want to recognise our fundamental right. Today we found that we can achieve what we want when we are united and fight together. On this occasion, we will organise more migrant workers regardless of their status into our union and continue our struggle for labour rights for all migrant workers! I appreciate all the support and solidarity for the MTU”.

The Korean government’s refusal to recognise the right of migrant workers to organise unions was criticised by the International Labour Organization’s Committee on Freedom of Association numerous times, most recently in March 2015.

In reaching its decision, the Court reviewed relevant legislation from a wide range of other countries, and found that the right to organise for undocumented migrants is the international standard. The Court also heard that the number of undocumented migrants in the country, largely those whose residence permits had expired, was around 210,000 in 2014.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “This judgement clears up one of many breaches of international labour standards in Korean law and practice. It is an important victory for some of the most vulnerable and exploited workers who will now be allowed to organise to protect their rights at work and improve their lives.”

Fiji Sun champions workers’ rights to lead their own call for Organising

The Fiji Sun through its column today by Nemani Delaibatiki, Managing Editor  impressed upon the Unions to organize the unorganized sectors.  Read article  – F S Nemani

The National Secretary Felix Anthony writes to Fiji Sun ( as below)  to engage with Unions to form a Union at their workplace. The FTUC appreciates the stance taken by Nemani and looks forward to Fiji Sun making it happen for the Unions and workers of the country beginning with Fiji Sun.

The Managing Director
Fiji Sun Ltd.
Private Mail Bag
Suva .

Dear Sir,

I take this opportunity to thank your Managing Editor, Mr. Nemani Delaibatiki for calling on Trade Unions to organize the private sector. This has been a difficult area to organize, more so with the Draconian Decrees that have existed for about 7 years now and a Ministry of Labour which is reluctant to enforce labour laws for decades. This is compounded by the fact that we have an Arbitration Tribunal which can take anywhere from 2 years to 6 years to deal with disputes. Often when workers join Unions in the private sector, they are victimized or even terminated. One can hardly make ends meet with the current minimum wage let alone not having a job.

Mr. Delaibatiki’s call is a welcome invitation to the Trade Union Movement to organize. Being a man of principle, who appears to champion workers’ rights, we seek to organize workers at Fiji Sun. In this regard, we seek a meeting with you and with your workers at a suitable time when we can discuss the possibility of your employees joining the Union. This has really got to be the first time an employer in the open column of its own newspaper has demanded that workers need to be organized. For this reason, we will publish this letter on our website to promote Fiji Sun. The only other contradiction in his article is that he appears to argue that unions are no longer relevant but urges FTUC to continue dialogue with government to avoid a Commission of Inquiry into violations of workers’ rights. These talks are about all workers and not the 30% as Mr Delaibatiki claims earlier in his article.

I am aware that Fiji Sun is a Subsidiary Company of C. J. Patel Group. I take it that they too agree with Mr. Delaibatiki’s call. I shall write to the Chief Executive Officer requesting a similar meeting.

I thank you most sincerely and look forward to your response and a proposed time to meet. Please feel free to report this correspondence in your newspaper with a possible heading “We Put Our Money Where Our Mouth Is” or “We Practice What We Preach”.
Yours sincerely,

………signed…….
Felix Anthony
National Secretary

FTUC reiterates: Fiji must comply with ILO Conventions

The FTUC made a comprehensive submission on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill No 10 to Parliament.

Attached is the  submission   for your  information. Final FTUC Submission to Sub Committee (Full Copy).  It lists in detail the omissions and justification(s) of amendments set out against the Committee Of Experts on the Application of Standards Report and the  ILO Core Conventions.

The FTUC is grateful to the assistance through our Australian unions to make available the Senior Legal Officer , SPSF, Mr Mark Perica, the public sector union group,   of Australian Council of Trade Unions.

FTUC.

Respect ILO Conventions or face Commission of Inquiry: Anthony

Commission of Inquiry could have serious implications: FTUC

06:48 Yesterday

Felix Anthony – Commission of Inquiry would have serious effectsTaken from/By: FBC News
Report by: Elenoa Turagaiviu

A Commission of Inquiry into Fiji by the International Labour Organisation could have serious implications for the country.

The Fiji Trades Union Congress is calling on all parties to honour the tripartite agreement signed in Geneva; which seeks to address decrees which affect workers’ rights in the country.

General Secretary Felix Anthony says government has the power to stop this from happening by simply complying with the terms of the tripartite agreement signed in Geneva in March

Anthony says the Union is willing to corporate with government in this regard.

“I think it has serious implications on Fiji. One, the reputation of Fiji I think Fiji is not held at very high esteem at the ILO at the moment for obvious reasons. This is going to damage the image of Fiji. Of course there will be serious implications on trade and the economy itself.”

A Commission of Inquiry is the ILO’s highest-level investigative procedure that is generally set up when a member State is accused of committing persistent and serious violations, and has repeatedly refused to address them.

The International Labour Organisation will decide in November whether to call a Commission of Inquiry into workers affairs in the country.

– See more at: http://www.fbc.com.fj/fiji/30529/commission-of-inquiry-could-have-serious-implications-ftuc#sthash.JAb64X2f.dpuf

ILO calls for revision

Nasik Swami – Fiji Times
Thursday, June 18, 2015

THE International Labour Organization has called on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights to relook at the scope of Fiji’s essential services and consider what is compatible with ILO’s Freedom of Association.

ILO’s senior International Labour Standards and Labour Law specialist Alain Pelce told the committee that the Employment Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015 should reconsider the essential services list and only include those that were vital to the country.

Mr Pelce said Fiji Airways was not necessarily an essential service, but was included as one in the Bill.

When questioned by committee chairman Ashneel Sudhakar whether banks were essential services, he said while the situation of other countries may differ, banks were not an essential service.

He told the committee the giving the minister the power to declare a workers strike illegal was wrong.

“This decision should lie with an independent body and not the minister.

“Have a second look at what is the scope and what is compatible with ILO Freedom of Association.”

Mr Pelce also told the committee to consider removing the penalty of imprisonment when workers go on a strike.

Mr Sudhakar said the ILO had taken the committee to the right path as Fiji tried to meet international standards and best practices.

Source Fiji Times

Jon Apted says it’s better to do away with the bargaining unit

Jon Apted says it’s better to do away with the bargaining unit
By Watisoni Butabua
Thursday 18/06/2015
Fiji Village. Com

Suva lawyer Jon Apted

Suva lawyer Jon Apted has said it would be better to do away with the in-house bargaining unit in the Employment Relations Amendment Bill as it is not a trade union.
While making his submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights, Apted said there is a misconception by the drafter of the bill.
Apted said the bargaining unit can be formed by the workers within the designated corporation.
He said they can vote for a representative and the representatives get registered under the Essential National Industries Decree.
He believes this is incorrect.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights, Ashneel Sudhakar questioned Apted on what would be the problem in having the bargaining unit that co-exists with the trade union.
Apted said it is pointless having a bargaining unit because it is a fake trade union.
He also said the bargaining unit threshold under the Essential National Industries Decree is 25%.

ILO reminds Fiji of its obligations

ILO reminds Fiji of its obligations –

http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/276592/ilo-reminds-fiji-of-its-obligations

The International Labour Organisation has reminded the Fiji government that a commission of inquiry into the country’s labour practices could be launched if an agreement it signed earlier this year is not fulfilled.

Felix Anthony  Photo: RNZ

In March, the ILO put off until November any decision on whether an inquiry should be established after the government, the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation and the Fiji Trades Union Congress signed a tripartite agreement to discuss amendments to labour laws.

But talks between the parties have disintegrated, with the government and the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation submitting one progress report to the ILO, and the Fiji Trades Union Congress submitting one on its own.

The FTUC’s general secretary, Felix Anthony, says it had serious concerns with the government’s report.

“There were parts of the report that were factually incorrect, one, and number two, there were admissions in the report. Quite apart from that, there were no real negotiations between the parties, and the fact the government attempted actually to dictate to the parties as to what we should be doing and what report we ought to be signing.”

Mr Anthony says the FTUC is waiting to hear from the government as to when it is prepared to meet and continue talks.

“If they’re prepared to meet we expect that there will be genuine discussions in good faith, and that we have a common goal, that is to honour the agreement we have signed in March this year and ensure we restore the rights of workers in this country.”

Meanwhile, The Fiji Times reports the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum as saying an ILO inquiry could be dangerous as it may pressure other countries to stop trading with Fiji.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum says he believes with the amendments that have already taken place, Fiji is now compliant with the core ILO conventions, and there is no point in having a commission of inquiry “for the sake of it”.

Related

Only Government can stop the Commission of Enquiry: Anthony

As the International Labour Organization waits for a progress report on the Employment Relations laws in the country, Fiji Trades Union Congress General Secretary Felix Anthony has said the fact is that the government has to amend the proposed law to conform to the ILO conventions.
Anthony said a Commission of Inquiry into Fiji may be ordered in November if the government does not comply with the requirements and does not present a joint report from the government, the unions and the employers to the ILO.
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has said that a Commission of Inquiry could have a disastrous effect on Fiji.
However, Felix Anthony said the government should just comply with the ILO requirements.
While speaking at the ACP EU meeting in Suva, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said by bringing in the Employment Relations Bill, Fiji has complied with the core ILO conventions.

Sayed-Khaiyum has also raised the issue that some of the unionists in the country continue to be involved in politics.
He said the fact is that the Bill allows workers in listed essential industries to join any trade union.

Felix Anthony said he sees nothing wrong with unionists having a political view.

Anthony said the workers’ representatives disagree with the denial of the right to strike for all essential services and industries as stipulated in the Essential National Industries Decree and incorporated in the Bill, the inclusion of bargaining units from the Essential National Industries Decree into the Bill, and the inclusion of essential services and industries under the decree into the draft Bill.

Commission of Enquiry still stands: Anthony

Government Warned Again

Update from Felix Anthony, Workers Representative @ the ILC 2015 in Geneva:

The Governing Body met today (Saturday 13 June 2015) and once again considered the Fiji Case as decided in March Governing Body of ILO. Unfortunately the Parties were not able to submit a joint report as Government decided to dictate terms and submit its own report signed by the Employers. FTUC then submitted its own report.
As we now see in the decision of the Governing Body which calls on Government to change labour laws to ensure full compliance with ILO conventions and to make a joint report before November GB meeting. Failing which, the GB will consider a Commission of Inquiry into Fiji. It is unfortunate that Fiji needs to be told to do the right thing at the ILO at every GB Meeting.
Governments of the EU and governments of Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Norway, The Republic of Moldova and Armenia all supported the decision and urged the Government to comply with the Agreement signed and if a joint implementation is not submitted then a Commission of Inquiry should be considered at the next meeting in November. Australia also urged Government to honor the Agreement and submit a joint report. United States stated its concern at the slow pace discussions and reiterated concerns that FTUC raised and urged Government to act on the concerns. It stated its support for the decision.
The FTUC remains prepared to continue negotiations on the labour laws and ensure full restoration of workers rights and dignity at work. The Agreement calls for laws to be in Parliament before the end of August and implementation before end of October 2015. Onus is on Government to honor the Agreement and avoid a Commission of Inquiry.

Decision adopted unanimously.

Recalling the Tripartite Agreement signed by the Government of Fiji, the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) and the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF) on 25 March 2015 and the Governing Body’s request to the Government and the social Partners to submit a joint implementation report to the Governing Body at its 324th Session (June 2015) in accordance with that Agreement,

Noting the joint communication of 2 June 2015 submitted by the Government of the Republic of Fiji and the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF) and the separate communication of 2 June 2015 from the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC),

Regretting the failure to submit a joint implementation report as called for in the decision adopted by the Governing Body at its 323rd Session (March 2015),

The Governing Body:

(a) urge the Government of Fiji through the Employment Relations Advisory Body to review its labour laws to ensure compliance with ILO core Conventions;

(b) reiterate the request for the submission of a joint implementation report, in accordance with the Tripartite Agreement signed in March 2015, before the 325th Session of the Governing Body (November 2015); and

(c) consider at its 325th Session the establishment of a commission of inquiry.

Cook Islands have been voted as the 186th member of the ILO with an overwhelming majority. This is the first Country since 1982 to be admitted as member of ILO which is not a member of the UN. I am privileged to have served on the Selection Committee of the International Labour Conference that examined the application and recommended acceptance of the Cook Islands as a Member of ILO. This was a historic occasion after 33years.
Congratulations to the People of Cook Islands.

 Felix Anthony

National Secretary responds to unbalanced and incorrect reporting by journalist

The FTUC released a statement  as soon as it was faced with the fact that Govt had prepared a report that was not tripartite and did not reflect the decisions reached in the ERAB meetings. The Fiji Sun, as usual and well-known for its behavior , decided to analyse the Statement with no basis and backing, and published it front page, purporting to be aware of all the facts and progress made at ERAB.  As a right of reply, we publish below the response from Felix Anthony.

Well the Fiji Sun is at it again. Journalism (if we can call that) at its worst. Nemani Delaibatiki without even publishing my statement decided that he would comment on it in the front page and page 3 attempting to tell the public that his views are “fact” and mine “fiction”. Where did media ethics go, I wonder? But I am not surprised.
Nemani Delaibatiki has been known to tow the Government line faithfully. There is absolutely no independence in his reporting or analysis of this issue.

He claims that there were no omissions in regards to the disagreements between the FTUC and Government in the report drafted by Government. He was not present in any meetings nor is he aware of what FTUC considers as an omission. He does not quote anyone who was present at any meeting to substantiate his claim. The omissions were as follows and they were included in the amended draft that was done in Geneva in presence of Mr. Hazelman and the Head of Mission in Geneva and her staff.

The omissions related to the inclusion of “Essential Services and Industries” under the ENI Decree into the draft Bill. The other omission was the exclusion of prisons officers from the ERP despite the ILO repeatedly calling on Fiji Government to amend the laws. The third omission was the issue of reinstatement of the registration of Trade Unions that were de-registered by the imposition of the ENI Decree.

In addition to this, amendments were made on the paragraphs that listed the disagreements. They included the issue of right to strike.
As an example, the Government’s draft stated that the FTUC disagreed with the Right to Strike. This was absolutely nonsense. The FTUC disagreed with the denial of the Right to Strike. So Nemani, there you are with facts.

The second “evidence” that Nemani relied upon to pronounce judgment and vindicate Government was the issue of “bargaining units” which was imported from the ENI Decree. He claims that I am worried that bargaining units would replace trade unions and that 70% of workers would be able to bargain who do not belong to Unions. The reality is that the ENI Decree has been around for some 5 years now. There are only a few Bargaining units registered and they all come from companies that previously had unions that were de-registered by the ENI Decree. No other workplace had registered a bargaining unit. The fact is that any 7 workers can form a union. That was already in the ERP. The fact is that any worker can take up a personal grievance, irrespective whether they belong to a union or not, to the Ministry of Labour and to arbitration. This is already in the ERP and you know who insisted on these rights for workers. It was the FTUC. Our interest is workers and not personal, as Nemani claims. The question is, has Nemani allowed a Bargaining Unit for workers in Fiji Sun and is prepared to negotiate and give those workers all the rights as required under the ILO Core Conventions? …Difficult question to answer, when we all know that workers in Fiji Sun, including journalists are exploited and underpaid and have no collective voice or protection.

The third “evidence” that Nemani relied upon is on the issue of Right to Strike. He claims that nothing has changed, not even full stops and comas in the ERP. The ERP provisions apply. He even tries to spice it up by giving an example of nurses going on strike in the middle of an operation. What incredible crap! Nemani obviously has not read the Bill before Parliament. The Bill requires any Essential Services or industries to go to  Compulsory Arbitration and gives no Right to Strike once the parties are before the Arbitration Court. Nemani has been fooled like many others will. One piece of legislation gives the right while the other promptly takes it away. Nemani must educate himself on these issues before claiming to know it all.
On the issue of “Right to Strike” it must be understood that this is the only tool workers have to fight for, what they believe is their right. Without the Right to Strike, collective bargaining has little meaning, which is why the Committee of Experts at the ILO has for the last 60 years stated that the Right to Strike is Essential and part of Convention 87. Nemani believes that this Right is the old fashion way of resolving disputes. He has much to learn in the field of Industrial Relations. It may well be his old fashion thinking that is the problem when it comes to Trade Unions. I would safely concur with the Experts in ILO.

Finally, Nemani questions me on what the fuss is about when Collective Bargaining and Freedom of Association is restored. The fuss is about everything I have already stated and about losing the benefits, Rights at Work and dignity that workers have struggled and sacrificed for over the last 8 decades in Fiji. We want the sacrifices and struggles of our forefathers to be recognized and restored and not expect workers to start from scratch again.
Sad that we have people who call themselves journalists and do such disservice to our people and country. The public deserves to know just the Truth.
Felix Anthony
National Secretary

Government and Employers Breach Tripartite Agreement

Government and Employers Breach Tripartite Agreement

The joint Implementation Report from the Employers, FTUC and Government was to be submitted by the 31st May 2015. Government undertook to draft the report as it had the minutes of the meetings. Despite reminders, the draft was unavailable until Tuesday 2nd June. The Parties met at 1 pm to discuss the report and FTUC suggested a number of amendments as the draft report contained a number of errors including factual errors. There were also some omissions. These were thoroughly discussed and the Employers representative agreed to the amendments. The amendments were sent to the Government bosses in Suva by the Fiji Head of Mission here in Geneva for Government approval. Approval was refused and FTUC was advised within a short time that the Employers Representative and Government had signed the original report and would submit it to ILO that same afternoon. In such a situation, FTUC was left with no option but to submit its own report which it did that same afternoon as well. It is clear that Government attempted to simply force its way and expected the Parties to accept the Draft. This is not how Tripartism works. In fact Government has attempted to dictate to the parties what should be done.

The FTUC will not be dictated to. The Agreement calls for negotiations and a joint report. This means that the views of all Parties must be taken into account. We are surprised that the CEO of FCEF despite agreeing in our meeting that parts of the report were incorrect and had factual errors, now claims that he had no problems with the report. A very confused man. The Head of Fiji Mission in Geneva was present at that meeting and she can confirm this fact.

The FTUC is there to look after the interest of all workers and nothing will deter us from doing just that. There were serious issues in the draft like it claimed to give all workers the right to strike. This is absolutely untrue as the Bill now requires all essential services and Industries to go to compulsory arbitration. The Bill also imports the definition of essential services and Industries from the ENI Decree which is in clear violation of ILO definition of Essential Services. The Bill also imports the bargaining units from the ENI Decree. What is Mr. Hazelman talking about repealing the ENI Decree when parts of the decree are now in the draft Bill. Who are we trying to fool here?? This was never the intent of the Agreement signed.

The FTUC insisted that the report include the disagreements that we had in our meeting. Here, there was an omission which FTUC insisted must be included. The Government in its draft attempted to take credit for repealing the Decrees when it was the FTUC which filed complaints with the ILO on the Decrees. The purpose of the joint report was not to promote a particular party but to state the facts. It must be understood that if Government wishes to enter into an agreement with FTUC, respect must be mutual. It was Mr. Hazelman on behalf of the Government who tried to lobby Employers at the ILO in March against the Commission of Inquiry. When that failed, It was him who attempted to get the Parties together to enter into an agreement. Now when it suits him, he tries to undermine FTUC and the workers of Fiji and all in the name of National Interest. Well let me remind Mr. Hazelman that the workers of Fiji make Fiji a Nation and they are the primary interest that must be served not some narrow interest.

The Bill does restore Collective Bargaining and Freedom of Association to workers. This is no concession by Government. This was and is our right which must be restored. This is no reason for FTUC to disregard the serious omissions in the Bill such as the restoration of registration of Unions that were deregistered by the ENI, the right to strike, the right of workers to seek and get justice which was denied by the ENI Decree and the Employment Relations (amendment) Decree, The restoration of Collective Agreements which were the result of decades of struggle and sacrifice by workers. These are just some examples.

We call on Government and Employers to revisit the Agreement signed and honor the Agreement and its intent. When we entered into that Agreement, people from all quarters in Geneva questioned me whether Government would honor the Agreement. Despite having doubts, the FTUC entered into this agreement in the hope that the Parties would be sincere. Those doubts were well founded. Refer to my speech at the ILO GB in March on  the FTUC website  link:  http://ftuc.org/intervention-by-national-secretary-ftuc-at-the-ilo-gb-session/

FTUC remains committed to the Agreement and hopes that Government and Employers will show sincerity in the talks that are to follow. There has been a total lack of good faith shown in the talks so far.

Felix Anthony
National Secretary

*Ends*

12:30noon

5/6/15

Next-Written submissions due to Parliamentary Sub Committee on June 12th.

Labour Protection- a global concern and a must to close the Decent Work Deficit gap

Opening Statement by Catelene Passchier, Workers’ Spokesperson for Labour Protection Committee

Statement | 01 June 2015
Dear Chair, let me first congratulate you and also my employer colleague Ms Giulietti, to your elections.In our view labour protection is an extremely important and topical issue and we are looking forward to a productive and constructive tripartite discussion on this. Labour protection is an area of intense tripartite cooperation in many countries and we can probably rely for our discussions on a lot of high quality expertise represented in this room.Let me also thank the office, Ms Tomei and her colleagues, for the report and all the preparatory work done for this discussion. Your report provides a good starting point for our discussions and let us be optimistic and determined that our final conclusions will justify all the work that went into the preparation of this discussion.
I do not know if this is a ‘first in a lifetime’, but seeing that this Committee will under a ‘women only’ leadership I have no doubt that this will benefit the work of this Committee.In 2008, we adopted the Social Justice Declaration to call on Member States to achieve decent work for all. The Declaration foresees regular discussion at the International Labour Conference as an institutional mechanism for its implementation. The wording ‘recurrent discussion’ may not be a very inspirational title, but the intention and spirit of the Social Justice Declaration gives our discussion a clear purpose and focus:What needs to be done to achieve progress towards greater social justice both at national and at international level?
What kind of labour protection policies do we need, to close the decent work deficit and to achieve better social outcomes in our societies?
What can we learn from each other, what can we do together and what do we expect the ILO to do?This discussion should not only be a global stock taking exercise about the current situation, but also a discussion about change. We need fundamental changes to ensure that economic growth, social justice and decent working conditions go hand in hand. It is absolutely unacceptable and indecent that, despite decades of economic growth, still many workers have hardly any social protection, are exposed to extremely hazardous working conditions, need to work excessive hours, lack maternity protection or do not even earn a proper minimum living wage.

Therefore, it is in my view high time that the ILO, with its strong and clear mandate to realize social justice and protection for all, investigates what is going wrong and why, and what to do about it.

In the fifties and sixties of last century, we had the hope that with economic growth we would also see a progressive extension of labour and social protection to all.
And that the social and labour protection enjoyed by regular employed full time workers would progressively become the universal standard. However, half a century later, we must admit that not only still large parts of the global workforce are working under unprotected or under-protected conditions, and that their numbers are on the increase. And also, that the competition through those ‘poor’ jobs is driving standards downwards, rather than upwards, in many places eroding the level of protection or even existence of the better jobs. And this is not only the temporary effect of the economic crisis….

The report of the office describes some extremely worrying trends that indicate regress instead of progress. Wages do not benefit from productivity growth, casual and unprotected forms of work are on the rise, informality and insecurity are a reality for many working people, and still every year 2.3 million people (!) die of work related accidents or diseases.

The fruits of economic growth are not shared fairly and the market on its own will not deliver social justice. It is therefore the challenge for policy makers to provide a regulatory environment that achieves greater social justice and enables dynamic and sustainable development. This is best achieved through a combination of direct state regulation and supportive measures that enable workers to organise without fear and to pursue their interests collectively. Labour rights often become only a reality where good industrial relations exist, and workers have the organisational strength to engage with employers on an equal footing.

The report gives a good overview of the massive problems and trends we are facing, and rightly points out that adequate labour protection is a question of level, coverage and compliance.

We highly appreciate the report, but want to make a fe remarks to set a few things straight right from the outset.

Often, and indeed also in the Office report, labour protection is primarily seen as a cost, with maybe some long term benefits. We want to emphasize that in reality it is an investment, with not only long-term returns, but also immediate benefits, such as improved living and working conditions, less absence from work for reasons of ill health, higher productivity and enterprise performance.

Furthermore, the report has a tendency to describe trends as something that somehow happens without any social actors. As if certain developments are quasi natural forces beyond our political influence.

It mentions a number of factors like globalisation, technological change, competition, labour market institutions, individualisation, declining trade union membership that contribute to these outcomes, but does not really address the relevance and weight of the different factors.

But what have for example globalisation and technological change to do with zero hour contracts for retail workers? Quite frankly – hardly anything. Technology plays only a role, in so far that workers no longer have to wait in front of the factory gate to hope for a day of work, but can sit instead at home and wait for a text message. But these technological innovations make it neither inevitable nor necessary to return to nineteenth century forms of casual work. It is great that we can call a taxi by mobile phone, but it is wrong if this results in drivers without rights and protection and increased risks for passengers.

As experience in some countries shows, it only takes the political will to introduce and enforce clearer rules and obligations for employers to provide the worker with the contract that reflects the reality of the work done, rather than the wishful thinking of the employer not to be bound to any obligations whatsoever…..
A zero-hour worker in reality never works zero hours, and to be honest is not intended to do so.

In non-tradable sectors – where most of the poorly paid jobs are – globalisation cannot explain the growing casualization and widespread absence of adequate labour protection. It is most likely rather a result of labour market deregulations that allow private and unfortunately even some public employers to stay in control but outsource risk and responsibility: via agency work and labour brokers, involuntary part time work and mini jobs, fixed term contracts and bogus self-employment.
And all this combined with increased barriers for coordinated or centralised collective bargaining, in the name of economic performance.

Why do we accept, that nowadays big firms are making contracts with their subcontractors in which detailed descriptions are put about the quality of the product or service to provide, under threat of large penalties or withdrawing of the contract for underperformance, but deny taking responsibility for the wages and working conditions that come about under the severe competition between the subcontractors ensuing from this?!

Is there any justifiable or objective reason that those who care for our beloved – children or elderly – are chronically underpaid and overexploited?
This cannot be explained by skills levels or low productivity.

The underpayment of mainly female care workers should not be accepted just because it exists already for too long and because there is a constant supply of desperate migrants.

Many million people, either refugees fleeing war and violence or migrants driven by extreme poverty, are often at the bottom of the labour market being forced into the 3-D (dirty, dangerous and demeaning) jobs. Rather than accepting that a new underclass of unprotected workers is developing where labour standards are absent, which will increasingly exert a downward pressure on overall standards, we will need proactive policies to integrate migrants and refugees in our labour markets with equal labour rights and social policies.

To be clear, there are constant and massive changes in our world that require also a constant adaptation and modernisation of regulatory frameworks, but there is no reason why technical progress should lead to social regress.

Skyrocketing profits or cheaper prices in the shops are unjustifiable, if at the expense of unprotected and exploitative conditions of work. Rana Plaza is in this respect only the peak of the iceberg, and the thousands of dead or injured workers must be a constant reminder for all of us that this has to change.
There is also no justification that dirty and dangerous jobs are shifted to the developing world, because employers can benefit from the desperation of poor workers in these countries. Asbestos kills everywhere! And can we accept that the beautiful flowers in the shops of the rich countries are produced by workers, exposed to toxic pesticides and high risk of cancer in many developing countries !

The report shows that good regulations and good labour protection do make economic sense for societies, for sustainable economic development and also for business. However, we have to recognise that one can make also high profits based on bad working conditions.

Therefore, the enforcement of labour protection requires for instance well-resourced public labour inspectorates that extend their reach towards all workplaces, including those in the grey areas of the formal economy, often only called ‘informal’ workplaces because of the absence of formal control.

Without proper regulation, a race to the bottom is the logical outcome of market competition, not only at the expense of workers, but also of business, economies and societies. And this recognition has been at the heart of ILO for now almost hundred years.

At the ILO, we should be able to build solid tripartite consensus that we need regulations enabling employers to offer decent working conditions to their workers without being undercut by those who don’t care about the people working for them.

There cannot be decent work and social justice without adequate regulatory frameworks for labour protection.

Sometimes we hear that the we must create employment first as there cannot be any decent work without jobs. But in most countries of the world most of the people work all the time. They are not lacking work, but income. They are so poor and desperate that they cannot afford to be unemployed. Indeed, extremely low wages force them to work extensive hours under often dangerous and humiliating conditions. It would be wrong to argue that any job is better than no job. This is a false alternative. The real challenge is that every job must be a decent job.

To achieve this, labour protection is essential.

The example given shows also why it is right for the Office report to focus on 4 key issues: wages, working time, OSH and maternity protection, as these issues are strongly interlinked: if wages are too low, one cannot afford to work reasonable hours of work. If there is no maternity protection also protecting their income, women will work with dangerous chemicals even when pregnant.

We know from research that countries with good labour protection and greater equality are those countries where trade unions are comparatively strong.
We also know, that strong workers’ representation improves compliance with labour protection at the workplace. Strengthening of trade unions tends to strengthen labour protection and vice versa.

Labour protection cannot be left to the market. It requires state regulations and binding agreements between workers’ organisations and employers. The ultimate responsibility to secure adequate labour protection is with the state, because only states have the authority to impose minimum standards on everybody.
But this does not mean that all working conditions should be directly regulated by the state.

Many important issues can be dealt with through collective bargaining, which also offers the possibility to find tailor-made solutions to diverse labour market realities. It is high time that collective bargaining therefore is recognized and promoted as one of the most flexible regulatory instruments!

However, it is a reality that many workers today are neither organised nor covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Today, in many countries workers do not enjoy the right to organise and to bargaining collectively, or access to these rights in practice is made unduly difficult. The conclusions of the Expert Meeting on Non Standard Forms of Work (NSFW) therefore rightfully stated that the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining are essential for exercising all labour rights .

Improving labour protection requires the empowerment of workers. This could include a range of measures including extension of collective bargaining agreements, socially responsible public procurement, public information campaigns about labour protection rights, information hotlines etc.

Governments should also be exemplary as employers and engage with their own employees in collective bargaining.

Building the right labour market institutions that support inclusive rights-based labour markets is a precondition for effective universal labour protection.
The recent tripartite meeting on non-standard forms of employment already suggested in this respect that the office should evaluate “the need for additional international labour standards ….. to address temporary contracts, including fixed-term contracts, and discrimination based on employment status.”

The ILO was founded precisely because the tripartite constituents recognised that without social justice neither social peace within societies not peace among nations is possible. Looking at the turmoil in many parts of the world, we witness also today the destructive role of poverty and inequality. It is up to us to provide guidance how we can achieve greater social justice in today’s world and what can be done through proper labour market regulations.

Some of the issues addressed are also discussed in other committees: formalisation of the informal economy (and not vice versa!) is an important step. The role of SME’s and the importance of taking into account the various responsibilities down the supply chain are certainly other very relevant issues.

But in this Committee, it is our duty to hold the ILO to task: it cannot be acceptable that in the 21-st century labour standards do not apply to those masses of workers that are most in need of them. Not an easy task, but certainly worthwhile, and of key importance to the future economic performance and well-being of our societies.

“ERP Amendment Bill was not in full compliance with ILO Conventions”- Felix Anthony

” We are not satisfied with the contents of the current ERP Amendment Bill” – Felix Anthony, National Secretary.

The FTUC has continued to raise its concerns on the contents of the Bill when it was presented to the ERAB  meeting where intense discussions took place.

“We had agreed to repeal the ENI and not  have any sections of the ENI Decree in the Bill. This has been the stand of the FTUC since Day One. ” The FTUC is  hopeful that the Bill released on the government website and that presented to the  Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Human Rights Law and Justice is the edited version after the final meeting.

Another FTUC representative to the ERAB, Mr Agni Deo Singh, confirmed that the consensus reached in the meeting, and of course the main intent of the MOU signing in Geneva by Mr Felix Anthony, was to be in full compliance with the Committee of Experts  on Application of Standards Report (CEACR) on Fiji and the core ILO Conventions.

We will release a detailed statement tomorrow on this issue as the National Secretary finalizes his report on Fiji for the ILC this week.

 

Watch this space!

Opening Address by Luc Cortebeck, Chairperson of the Workers’ Group

Opening Address by Luc Cortebeck, Chairperson of the Workers’ Group

President and Vice Presidents of the Conference,
Secretary General,
Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me congratulate the President and the three Vice-Presidents for their election.

At the beginning of this Conference, let me briefly touch on the items on our agenda and some of the workers’ group priorities.

Further to the incidents in the Committee on the Application of Standards in 2012, several important and difficult discussions were held in the Governing Body – and informally outside of it – in order to resolve the deadlock in the supervisory system. At its March 2015 session, building on a joint statement from the Workers’ and the Employer’s Groups and thanks to the content of two statements from the Government Group, the Governing Body was able to agree on a package of measures in respect of the Standards Initiative which should allow the ILO to resume the supervision of standards unimpeded. I am confident that the Committee on the Application of Standards will be in a position to adopt a short list of cases as well as consensual conclusions on all the cases that will be discussed.

The Committee on facilitating transitions from the informal to the formal economy will hold its second and final discussion this year. We are confident that in two weeks the Conference will be adopting a Recommendation providing comprehensive guidance on strategies to formalize based on the four areas of the decent work agenda. This is urgently required as the informal economy is where major decent work deficits crystallize: serious abuses of workers’ rights, low wages and lack of social security coverage to mention a few. Activities in the informal economy tend to be characterised by very low productivity and represent a form of underemployment. Transforming informal economic activities into formal activities in accordance with the right set of economic and social policies is therefore necessary to enhance both economic efficiency and employment prospects as well as the welfare, working and living conditions of the workers concerned.

The recurrent discussion on labour protection under the follow-up to the Social Justice Declaration is of critical importance for the Workers’ Group. It provides an opportunity to discuss the progress and challenges in respect of wage policies, working- time arrangements, occupational safety and health and maternity protection with a view to set a policy agenda for the ILO and its constituents for the coming years using all ILO means of action. Many of the issues that the Committee will discuss lie at the heart of the ILO constitutional mandate. Yet, as we approach the ILO centenary, too many policy interventions and business practices seek to avoid or reduce labour costs arising from labour protection with the argument that the economy needs it and that this allows to create more jobs.

But less protection does not help the economy and does not create jobs. On the contrary, it creates high costs for enterprises and societies. Millions of workers earn poverty wages, fall victims of accidents and diseases at work, work insufficient hours leading to income insecurity or excessive hours and in the case of women are deprived from maternity protection. This discussion should therefore allow to identify the role the ILO should play in influencing the policies of members states through the promotion of relevant international labour standards with a view to achieve in law and in practice better coverage of labour protection. Building on the good conclusions of the Meeting of experts on non-standard forms of employment held in February 2015, the discussion should also take stock of how these forms of work deprive workers from labour protection and identify strategies – including through standard-setting – to ensure that workers are not deprived of their rights and can have a decent job.

When it comes to the general discussion on small and medium-sized enterprises and decent and productive employment creation it is worth recalling that in 2007 the Conference held a discussion on sustainable enterprises whose conclusions recognized that the social dimension was an essential added-value of the ILO to the debate. This meant that ILO work on enterprises’ promotion should look at the economic viability of an enterprise and also address the social and environmental pillars. Therefore for our Group the discussion this year should allow to assess how SMEs contribute to the creation of decent employment. We know that several decent work deficits exists in SMEs in areas like organising and collective bargaining, wages, jobs security, occupational safety and health and social security coverage and the discussion should identify strategies to tackle them.

The discussion should also look at the contribution that cooperatives and the social economy make to decent and productive employment creation. Cooperatives have the potential to employ a large number of people, have a proven record in the realization of decent work and also play an important role in the formalization of the informal economy. Importantly, this discussion cannot be delinked from the set of macroeconomic policies oriented towards employment intensive growth that is essential in order to create an environment where enterprises can grow.

This year the Conference will be called upon to adopt the programme and budget for the 2016-2017 biennium. After the good debate at the March Governing Body I am confident that the programme and budget will be adopted. The Workers’ Group supports the proposals put forward by the Director-General. We welcome the continued commitment to the goal of decent work as well as the new framework centred on the ten policy outcomes.

Our Group also welcomes the DG report on the future of work centenary initiative and we look forward to its discussion on Thursday. Let me also thank the Director General for his report on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories. As rightly stated in the re-port, the lives of Palestinian workers and their families remain marked by uncertain employment, tensions and high levels of deprivation. Serious efforts must be exerted by all to bring about an end to the occupation, with the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian State, living side by side with Israel in peace and security and were decent work can be-come a reality for Palestinian workers.

I wish you all a fruitful Conference and let us be ambitious in the results we will achieve. I thank you for your attention.

Guy Ryder calls for debate on future of work at ILC opening

GENEVA (ILO News) – International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Guy Ryder has called for a global debate on the future of work during his opening address  to the 104th International Labour Conference  (ILC).

“The issues of jobs, equity, sustainability, human security, labour mobility, social dialogue, which need to be tackled in a future of work initiative, are almost by definition the key policy issues of our time,” said Ryder at the start of the annual ILO Conference which brings together some 4,000 government, worker and employer representatives in Geneva.

The proposed Future of work initiative would be structured around four conversations: work and society; the organization of work and production; decent jobs for all; and the governance of work. Subsequently, a high-level commission on the future of work would prepare a report to the ILO’s centenary Conference in 2019.

Ryder called on delegates to “look at the longer term drivers of change, the transformational mega-trends, and what they imply for the goals we pursue in the ILO in its second century.”

Ryder’s proposal is contained in his report to the ILC entitled, The Future of work centenary initiative , and is accompanied by an annual report on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab territories .

According to the latest World Employment and Social Outlook report , global unemployment reached 201 million in 2014, over 30 million higher than before the start of the global crisis in 2008. Moreover, providing jobs to the more than 40 million additional people who enter the global labour market every year is proving to be a daunting challenge. In addition to widespread joblessness, the employment relationship itself is facing a major transformation that is bringing further challenges.

In addition to the Director-General’s Future of work initiative, the Conference this year will discuss various other issues, including climate change, a proposed first ever international standard on the transition from the informal to the formal economy; the role of small and medium enterprises as a major job creation engine; and how to ensure labour protection (wages, working time, maternity protection and occupational safety and health) which is at the heart of the ILO’s mandate and does not currently cover many types of employees.

High-level discussions on climate change and the world of work, as well as child labour will take place on 11 and 12 June, respectively, and there will be a focus on encouraging ratification by member States of the 2014 protocol to the ILO Convention on Forced Labour (C029, 1930) to enable it to enter into force.

Ms. Ieva Jaunzeme, State Secretary of the Ministry of Welfare of Latvia, was elected President of the International Labour Conference , which runs from 1-13 June 2015.

Labour laws must comply with ILO Conventions: National Secretary reiterates

The National Secretary FTUC Mr Felix Anthony  has reiterated that all labour laws in the country MUST respect and adhere to the ILO Conventions. Mr Anthony is hopeful the Government of Fiji especially the law-makers will ensure that this is the intent of the ongoing reforms of labour laws in the country.

The Bill No 10 of  2015 tabled in Parliament on May 22nd is now referred to the Standing Committee on Human Rights, Law and Justice which will present its submissions to the Parliamentary session in July.

The FTUC hopes good sense will prevail for the betterment of all workers in Fiji where their rights to join unions and to collective bargaining will be restored and check-off systems resumed. The Core ILO Convention 87 and 98 safeguard workers rights to join unions and to engage in collective bargaining on employment relations issues. These rights were enshrined in the Employment Relations Promulgations 2007 which covered all workers and had been taken away through numerous decrees enacted in the past few years. The ERP , which had taken 10 plus years to be promulgated was a result of extensive tripartite and civil sector involvement, and  resulted in a comprehensiveness and inclusive  piece of legislation for protecting workers in Fiji.Fiji has ratified all 8 core ILO Conventions, with C87 ratified in 2002 and C98 in 1974.

The National Secretary further stated that FTUC’s concerns  have remained focused on human rights in Fiji all these years and that it was obligation of government to ensure all workers were protected in the country. He further elaborated on the fact that poverty levels continued   increasing, squatter settlements extending,  and unemployment and underemployment numbers spiraling.

Mr Anthony will be presenting our progress report on the MOU to the ILC in the coming weeks. The FTUC remains steadfast that the ENI must be repealed. We attach for your perusal the Bill No 10 of 2015 on ERP Amendments.

*Ends*

Attachment : ERP Amendment Bill No 10 of 2015

Bill-No-10-Employment-Relations-(3)(1)

Update on talks with Government on MOU signed in Geneva

Felix Anthony,  National Secretary, FTUC ,  speaks on status of progress with Government on the recent MOU signed in Geneva.

Talks have concluded on first part of the draft Bill.

The first part restores the right to collective bargaining and freedom of Association to all workers in Fiji. It also makes the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 applicable to all workers. These include civil servants and workers who were previously covered under the Essential National Industries Decree. (ENI). Part 19 of the ERP is repealed to include provisions for essential services.
Areas of disagreement remain in some fundamental issues.
1.Essential Industries
2. Right to strike
3. Bargaining Units.

These issues will be pursued further as they remain non compliant to the core ILO Conventions.

4. Reinstatement of Unions in industries that fell under ENI.
5. Reinstatement of collective agreements.
6. Address disputes and court actions that were discontinued by the ENI.
These Decrees will be repealed
1. ENI Decree
2. Employment Relations (Amendment) Decree
3. Public Service (amendment) Decree
This Bill was tabled in Parliament on Friday 22nd May 2015 as Bill No. 10 of 2015. This will be sent to the Parliamentary Sub-Committee and will be debated in Parliament in the July session.
Progress has been made. There are a number of other issues that need to be addressed which were reviewed by the Employment Relations Board earlier. This will be done commencing around the third week in June and we hope to have these amendments in Parliament in July.
This is work in progress so far. A lot more to be accomplished in the near future for workers of this country.

Unions call for adherence to International Labour Standards in Fiji

FTUC representatives  deliberated  on how they could effectively utilize  ILO Conventions on Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining  to improve working conditions of workers in Fiji.

ILO Bangkok Office Workers Specialist for Asia Pacific, Mr Arun Kumar  enlightened the twenty five selected union executives, youth & women representatives and young lawyers on international best practices that could be applied to Fiji employment relations.  He emphasized on the importance of financial literacy for leaders and how  effective it had been in negotiations in the region.  The participants were encouraged to persevere with the practice of basing negotiations in line with, and above, the  ILO ratified conventions by Fiji and thinking ‘outside the box’ of reduction in labour costs as the only strategy to cut company costs. The workshop deliberated on strategies on how best to justify their log of claims. The delegates also  reinforced the idea of  negotiating  on matters of interests and not ” matters of rights” as it was already stipulated in legislation.

At the end of the two day program, delegates presented their union based workplans which will be implemented in the short term and monitored on a monthly basis. A follow up training is being planned to monitor progress in late August this year.  The FTUC is grateful to the ILO for the technical and financial support for this  workshop.

Happy International Workers Day

Why do we mark International Workers Day:

May 1st was chosen to be International Workers’ Day in order to commemorate the May 4, 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. The police were trying to disperse a public assembly during a general strike for the eight-hour workday, when an unidentified person threw a bomb at the police. The police responded by firing on the workers, killing four demonstrators.

In 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on “all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.” The congress made it “mandatory upon the proletarian organizations of all countries to stop work on May 1, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers. Across the globe, labor activists sought to make May Day an official holiday to honor labor and many countries have done so.

May Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various socialist, communist and anarchist groups. It has been an important official holiday in many countries.
May Day is a time to celebrate the historic values and achievements of trade unions. It is also a time to reaffirm our commitment to organize workers everywhere and support their fights for:

– Freedom of Association and collective bargaining;
– Minimum wages on which workers can live;
– Universal social protection; and
– Safe, healthy and sustainable jobs.

Unions are organising globally to transform the model of trade that allows exploitative supply chains that deny fundamental rights, impoverish workers and their communities and profit from unsafe workplaces.

Hence this year we wish to join in support with unions around the world to mark this event. We remember our colleagues in Nepal who are facing the most trying times in their history.  We remember them in our prayers and dedicate May Day 2015 to their  sacrifices and   hope for quick recovery and normalcy.

We join our union colleagues worldwide who will be launching campaigns or undertaking solidarity actions to mark this Day.

In solidarity

FTUC

 

* Watch this space for May Day message by National Secretary FTUC*

Monitoring of workplace standards crucial – FTUC

International Occupational Hazard and Safety Day

Participants of the “World Day for Safety and Health at Work” workshop at Holiday Inn, Suva.

On April 28th, tripartite partners of the ILO met together for a workshop on the theme Join in Building the Culture of Prevention on OHS”. More than 100 participants attended the programme including delegates from PNG. FTUC was represented by 10 participants, some of whom traveled from Levuka. The guest speaker from FTUC  was Mr. Rouhit Karan Singh, the Assistant National Secretary. Below is the speech that was delivered in the evening programme where the OHS awards were announced.

 

SPEECH BY Mr Rouhit Karan Singh,

REPRESENTATIVE OF FIJI TRADES UNION CONGRESS

WORLD DAY FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK

28th APRIL, 2015,HOLIDAY INN,SUVA

 

Join in Building the Culture of Prevention on OHS”

 

  1. Chief Guest-Minister for Labour-PNG,Hon. Benjamin Poponawa
  2. Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations,Hon. Jioji K Konrote
  3. Director General and Representatives from International Labor Organization
  4. Acting PS and Representatives from Ministry for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations
  5. Representative from Fiji Employers Federation
  6. Invited Guests,
  7. Trade Union Delegates
  8. Ladies & Gentlemen
  9. Brothers and Sisters

 

Today, I stand tall in the capacity of Assistant National Secretary of Fiji Trades Union Congress to be part of this celebration.

I am indeed proud to state that I’m not here to represent the 30,000 or so odd trade union members but all the workers throughout Fiji. Also in our own dimensions , we all are workers.

More so, it gives me great pleasure to extend a very warm welcome from my colleagues at the Fiji Trades Union Congress.

April 28th marks a historical and a day of significance for all the workers throughout the world and FTUC is proud to be associated with this year’s celebrations to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Being one of the tripartite partners bestowed with this responsibility of ensuring and promoting a safe work practices and standards, it has become very important to work towards achieving a safe work environment.

This year’s theme is “Join in Building the Culture of Prevention on OSH”.

The culture of prevention cannot be dealt in isolation and needs genuine commitment of the Government, Employers and the Workers.

Every year hundreds of workplace accidents occur.

ILO estimates that occupational accidents and work-related diseases cause over 6,300 deaths every day or 2.3 million fatalities a year. Of this huge loss, about 350,000 deaths are caused by occupational accidents and close to 2 million by work-related diseases.

Non-fatal accidents affect an even larger number – over 313 million workers are injured every year – while non-fatal work-related diseases are estimated to affect 160 million each year.

I pay tribute to those lives lost in Nepal earthquake and I pay tribute to many workers who have been victims of OHS diseases and injuries.

We cannot lay back and wonder about the figures. The fact remains that it’s time for us to take urgent steps collectively to reinforce our action and redouble our efforts to create safe and healthy workplaces for all workers.

Communication is a very vital tool in OHS and we need to identify and discuss new trends and prospects for promoting activities for safety and health at work, for ensuring safe working conditions and protecting workers’ health.
It has been rightly stated that a successful OHS management system requires the commitment of top management to a culture of prevention, including through the allocation of sufficient resources. This includes awareness, training, maintenance, personal protective equipment’s etc.

But just as important is the participation of workers, who play a crucial role in recognizing and identifying hazards; contributing to well-informed and context specific risk assessment; planning effective preventive measures; and implementing prevention and mitigation measures.
The goal of OHS strategy is to prevent workplace death, injury and disease. But when it happens, workers and their dependents must be supported and I urge that all Employers to have adequate coverage for workmen compensation and adequate insurance.

The death and injury rate at workplace is obviously unacceptable to the union movement and one of the most important tasks for unions therefore is not only to protect their members from the hazards at their work but in broader perspective – the overall impact it may create to the family, society and the country as a whole.

And in what better way than through prevention.

Work related diseases can be prevented or decreased if all parties are committed in ensuring safety through OHS compliance.

To comply, FTUC urges all the workplace in Fiji to implement OHS standards, have OHS Committees as per Workplace Regulations and Health and Safety at Work Act 1996 respectively and provide necessary facilities and amenities.

The signing of MOU with PNG reflects that Fiji is blessed with beautiful piece of legislation and it only needs proper policing and implementation.

In addition, we urge that the Ministry of Employment,Productivity and Industrial Relations to come hard on workplaces so that they fulfill the requirements in obtaining compliance certificates and as such our workers are provided with safer and better workplace with all the facilities and amenities. The governing legislations must be fully implemented and violators should be held accountable.

For all the inspectors, the workers have lot of trust and faith in you.Please assist all the workers who come your assistance.

There are many workers around the country who have suffered or died from occupational hazards whilst in employment. Many workers have lost their jobs by reporting themselves?

Many cases have so far gone unreported which is of great concern to the Trade Union Congress.

As a deterrent, those employers failing to report on such an important issue should be prosecuted. We believe that to ensure that workers are safe and provided with a disease-free environment while they are at work, the co-operation and understanding of all tripartite partners is equally important and more so very vital.

Today, whilst we discuss this important subject, I hope that progress is made on a joint approach towards an appropriate and applicable OHS management system as a model for Fiji workplace situations. Being on NOHSAB gives me satisfaction to contribute for the betterment of the workers in Fiji.

The trade union calls on governments, employers, workers and their organizations to collaborate in the development and implementation of national policies and effective strategies aimed at preventing occupational and work-related diseases.

We don’t want to loose our fellow workers due to others negligence.

We pay heavily for the loss of productivity and economic waste as employees fall sick. Much has been written about the cost of industrial expenses but few attempts have been made to access it accurately.

We only capture incidence of those who are in working life. What happens to those who retire and die of diseases which may have been contracted due to his occupation.

Finally, I wish to emphasize again that proper implementation and monitoring of workplace standards is crucial.

Effective control is the best way to ensure effective implementation!

This is the only way forward in Building on the culture of Prevention on OHS.

Just to draw your attention, Lautoka City Council have partnered with ILO and JICA to promote WARM (Work Adjustment in Recycling and Waste Management). The program focuses to develop and improve safety, health and working conditions of waste collectors in Fiji. WARM is designed for promoting active cooperation between waste collectors, community, and other stakeholders to make waste collection safer and more efficient through participatory and action-oriented approach.

I am indeed blessed to be trained as Trainer to promote the WARM program in Fiji and the region.

The concept is to instill voluntary changes with minimum costs in stakeholders towards OSH.

I wish all of you present here today a fruitful OHS Day and hope you will execute your roles and responsibilities with due diligence to help us prevent occupational diseases and ensure better and higher productivity.

We need a collaborative approach and I’m very optimistic that together we can make our workplace a healthier and safer one.

FTUC reaffirmed its commitment as tripartite partner on OSH issues.

May God Shower his blessing to all the workers in Fiji and in the world at large.

Vinaka Vakalevu!

Thank You and Dhanyabaad

Rouhit Karan Singh

Assistant National Secretary

Fiji Trades Union Congress

On World OHS Day – ITUC Pledge

ITUC Pledge on Toxics: “If you expose us, we’ll expose you”

ILO Report on Disability

ILO report

OUT of the 650 million people with disabilities worldwide, 470 million are of working age, says the International Labour Organization.

And while this number has the potential to contribute towards the national GDP of countries globally, many persons with disabilities were still not given equal opportunities to earn a living.

According to the ILO, people with disabilities were more likely to be unemployed or earn less when compared with non-disabled people.

“Despite major gains in recent years, people with disabilities still face discrimination and other barriers to full participation in social, economic, political and cultural life,” the statement said.

In order to encourage more persons living with disabilities to join the business sector, ILO has joined hands with the Pacific Disability Forum to host a training workshop in Nadi this week.

Four regional countries — Fiji, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu — are participating in the workshop.

“Skills development is central in enabling people with disabilities to take part in the labour force. Those who have had the opportunity to acquire marketable skills are more likely to obtain decent and productive work.”

The training workshop is facilitated by Papua New Guinea-based Peter Piawu, an ILO certified business trainer.

 

FSGWU Annual Delegates Conference 2015

FSGWU Annual Delegates Conference 2015

The FSGWU held its Annual Delegates Conference on Saturday 25th April in Lautoka. Delegates from the Union’s Branches attended the Conference. The meeting adopted the Annual Reports and elected its officers. The Elections were conducted by the Fiji Elections Office in accordance with the Union Constitution. Nominations were called for through advertisements in the newspapers. All National and Branch Officials of the Union were elected unopposed. A clear sign of solidarity and mandate to those elected to press on without distractions. Those elected are:

National President: Nasoni Naqelekalou

National Vice President: Mariappa

General Secretary: Felix Anthony

National Treasurer: Peni Vakau

The National President, Vice President and National Treasurer are elected for a term of 2 years while the General Secretary is elected for a term of 4 years.

The Conference has also taken a decision to amalgamate with the Construction, Energy and Timber Workers Union. Secret ballots would be conducted to seek the mandate of all members. The Union will also be seeking a name change as it has already amalgamated with the Municipal Workers Union, The Tropik Wood Employees and Allied Workers Union and is in the process of amalgamating with the PAFCO Employees Union. This is in conformity with the policy of FTUC on amalgamations of smaller Unions.

The Conference also discussed the plight of seasonal workers in the Sugar Industry. With the reduction in crop size from a high of about 4 million tons to 1.8 million tons, workers are now facing longer slack season without any alternative work or source of income. Delegates raised concern that no assistance was forthcoming from Government or Fiji Sugar Corporation. The Delegates have called on the Union to pursue this matter with Government and the European Union which has pledged substantial support to the Industry excluding the workers. Delegates also raised serious concerns about the Industry and their job security.

The Delegates also discussed the latest agreement signed in Geneva between FTUC, FCEF and Government, and hoped to see an improvement to industrial relations in Fiji. The delegates called upon FTUC to ensure that the ENI Decree is revoked and workers in Tropik Wood and Municipal Councils have their rights restored as soon as possible.

Concern was also raised at the delay in the Ministry of Labour registering the amalgamation of the two Unions. It is now about 2 years since the members of both the Unions had voted to amalgamate and lodged registration application with the Ministry.

Tripartite Celebrations begin to mark World OHS Day

Tripartite representatives at the OSH Workshop In Lautoka, on your far right is Mr Rouhit Singh of FTUC.

EVENT ADDRESS  BY Mr Rouhit Karan Singh,
REPRESENTATIVE OF  FIJI TRADES UNION CONGRESS
WORLD DAY FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK
21st APRIL, 2015,LAUTOKA HOTEL, LAUTOKA

“Join in Building the Culture of Prevention on OSH”.

1. Representatives from International Labor Organization
2. Representatives from Ministry for Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment
3. Representative from Fiji Employers Federation
4. Invited Guests,
5. Trade Union Delegates
6. Ladies & Gentlemen
7. Brothers and Sisters

This morning I stand tall in the capacity of Assistant National Secretary of Fiji Trades Union Congress and Chief Guest to open the program in Lautoka.

I am indeed proud to state that I’m not here to represent the 30,000 or so odd trade union members but all  workers throughout Fiji.

More so, it gives me great pleasure to extend a very warm welcome from my colleagues at the Fiji Trades Union Congress.

April 28 marks a historical and a day of significance for all the workers throughout the world and FTUC is proud to be associated with this year’s celebrations to mark World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Being one of the tripartite partners bestowed with the responsibility of ensuring and promoting safe work practices and standards, it has become very important to work towards achieving a safe work environment.

This year’s theme is “Join in Building the Culture of Prevention on OSH”.

The culture of prevention cannot be dealt in isolation and needs genuine commitment of the Government, Employers and the Workers.

Every year hundreds of workplace accidents occur.

ILO estimates that occupational accidents and work-related diseases cause over 6,300 deaths every day or 2.3 million fatalities a year. Of this huge loss, about 350,000 deaths are caused by occupational accidents and close to 2 million by work-related diseases.

Non-fatal accidents affect an even larger number – over 313 million workers are injured every year – while non-fatal work-related diseases are estimated to affect 160 million each year.

We cannot lay back and wonder about the figures. The fact remains that it’s time for us to take urgent steps collectively to reinforce our action and redouble our efforts to create safe and healthy workplaces for all workers.

Communication is a very vital tool in OSH and we need to identify and discuss new trends and prospects for promoting activities for safety and health at work, for ensuring safe working conditions and protect workers’ health.

It has been rightly stated that a successful OSH management system requires the commitment of top management to a culture of prevention, including through the allocation of sufficient resources. This includes awareness, training, maintenance, personal protective equipment’s etc.
But just as important is the participation of workers, who play a crucial role in recognizing and identifying hazards; contributing to well-informed and context specific risk assessment; planning effective preventive measures; and implementing prevention and mitigation measures.

The goal of OSH strategy is to prevent workplace death, injury and disease. But when it happens, workers and their dependents must be supported and I urge that all Employers to have adequate coverage for Workmen’s Compensation and adequate insurance.

The death and injury rate at workplace is obviously unacceptable to the union movement and one of the most important tasks for unions therefore is not only to protect their members from the hazards at their work but in broader perspective – the overall impact it may create to the family, society and the country as a whole.

And in what better way than through prevention.

Work related diseases can be prevented or decreased if all parties are committed in ensuring safety through OHS compliance.

To comply, FTUC urges all the workplace in Fiji to implement safer OHS standards, implement and support OHS Committees as per Workplace Regulations and Health and Safety at Work Act 1996 respectively and provide necessary facilities and amenities.

In addition, we urge that the Ministry of Employment and Industrial Relations to come hard on workplaces so that they fulfill the requirements in obtaining compliance certificates and as such our workers are provided with safer and better workplace with all the facilities and amenities. The governing legislations must be fully implemented and violators should be held accountable.

There are many workers around the country who have suffered or died from occupational hazards whilst in employment. Many workers have lost their jobs by reporting themselves.

Many cases have so far gone unreported which is of great concern to the Trade Union Congress.
As a deterrent, those employers failing to report on such an important issue should be immediately  prosecuted. We believe that to ensure that workers are safe and provided with a disease-free environment while they are at work, the co-operation and understanding of all tripartite partners is equally important and more so very vital.

Today, whilst we discuss this important subject, I hope that progress is made on a joint approach towards an appropriate and applicable OHS management system as a model for Fiji workplace situations. Being a NOHSAB member gives me satisfaction to contribute for the betterment of the workers in Fiji.

The Congress calls on governments, employers and all organizations to collaborate in the development and implementation of national policies and effective strategies aimed at preventing occupational and work-related diseases.

We don’t want to lose our fellow workers due to others negligence.
We pay heavily for the loss of productivity and economic waste as employees fall sick. Much has been written about the cost of industrial expenses but few attempts have been made to assess it accurately.

We only capture incidence of those who are in working life. What happens to those who retire and die of diseases which may have been contracted due to his occupation.

Finally, I wish to emphasize again that proper implementation and monitoring of workplace standards is crucial.

Effective control is the best way to ensure effective implementation!

This is the only way forward in Building on the culture of Prevention on OSH.

Just to draw your attention, Lautoka City Council has partnered with ILO and JICA to promote WARM (Work Adjustment in Recycling and Waste Management). The program focuses to develop and improve safety, health and working conditions of waste collectors in Fiji. WARM is designed for promoting aactive cooperation between waste collectors, community, and other stakeholders to make waste collection safer and more efficient through participatory and action-oriented approach.

I am indeed blessed to be trained as a Trainer to promote the WARM program in Fiji and the region.

I wish all of you present here today a fruitful OHS Day and hope you will execute your roles and responsibilities with due diligence to help us prevent occupational diseases and ensure better and higher productivity.

We need a collaborative approach and I’m very optimistic that together we can make our workplace a healthier and safer one.

May God Shower his blessing to all the workers in Fiji and in the world at large.

Vinaka Vakalevu!
Thank You and Dhanyabaad
Rouhit Karan Singh
Assistant National SecretaryFiji Trades Union Congress

New ILO Manual on Employment policies for Trade Unions

Employment Policy

New ILO Manual on Employment policies for Trade Unions

New ILO Publication presents a series of employment policies for Trade Unions. It summarizes years of experience in the field of employment at national level.

News | 20 April 2015
Unions’ involvement on macroeconomic policies and the reduction of informal employment should be given to implement national employment policies, says a new ILO Publication.“A Workers’ Guide to National Employment Policies” was released by the ILO Bureau for Workers ‘Activities (ACTRAV) and the ILO Employment policy Department at the seminar for trade unionists on Employment policies in Astana (Kazakhstan), being held form 8-12 April 2015.The manual is the result of lessons learned by Trade Unions on the National Employment Policies (NEP).According to Sergeyus Glovackas, Senior Specialist in Workers’ Activities, “this is the first event of such a scope in the region of the New Independent States (NIS) and the first time, when such a Guide has been published in the Russian language. This Guide is very timely, as the economic crisis has started in the Russian Federation; and the Guide should serve as a useful tool in elaboration of the anti-crisis strategy in the Region”.The event was jointly organized by the Bureau of the Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV), the ILO Employment Policies Department and the Regional Office for Central and Eastern Europe with the support and active participation of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The seminar was attended by 26 representatives of trade unions from 11 countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.Participants suggested that the involvement of trade unions in the formation of a NEP should be reflected in the Decent Work Country Programmes and National agreements.

Four regions of will be hosts to such training events in order to adapt and test this Manual.

Strong communications can boost activities in Asia-Pacific, unions say

Strong communications can boost activities in Asia-Pacific, unions say

Press release | Bangkok | 20 April 2015
New communication strategy and skills are needed to mobilise and organize workers in the Asia and Pacific region, according to the conclusions of a regional workshop on communication, organized by the ILO’ Bureau for Workers Activities (ACTRAV) under the ACTRAV-ACFTU South-South cooperation .

Participants shared best practices on how to use new technology and communication in their countries and discussed the challenges they face to mobilise and organise workers.

Representatives from 30 unions addressed several topics related to communication such as: online campaigns, advocacy, writing skills, making videos and designing communication strategies.

Participants welcomed the existence of training activities for trade unions to improve and implement communication skills in the region. In addition, they also called for more resources to be made available. They also supported the creation of more publications on communication to strengthen unions’ activities to mobilise and organize workers in the Asia and Pacific region.

The regional workshop was held in Bangkok (Thailand) from 15 to 17 April 2015. It brought together union leaders, ILO and ACFTU representatives.

President of Workers’ Group speaks on Right to Strike at ILO 323rd Session of the ILO GB

323rd session of the ILO Governing Body

Luc Cortebeeck, President of the Workers’ Group: “The right to strike has been recognized and the ILO supervisory mechanism is back in operation”
The 323rd session of the ILO Governing Body has just finished in Geneva. In this interview, President of the Workers’ Group Luc Cortebeeck discusses the outcomes achieved at this session, in particular on the issue of the right to strike. He also talks about the solutions the trade unions have in mind for the protection of vulnerable workers and the expectations of the Workers’ Group for the forthcoming discussions on transitioning from the informal to the formal economy due to take place at the International Labour Conference in June 2015.
ACTRAV INFO: The 323rd session of the ILO Governing Body has just finished. What’s your interpretation of the results of this session at the level of the Workers’ Group?

Luc Cortebeeck: I think that this 323rd session of the Governing Body was a success compared to where we were in November 2014, for several reasons. Firstly, we made a lot of progress on the issue of the right to strike in particular and the ILO supervisory mechanism is operational once again. This is the result of multiple negotiations with employers and governments, which eventually fostered an atmosphere favourable to the operation of the ILO mechanism for supervision of the application of international labour standards. Today, tripartism is stronger.

Then another success was the signature of a tripartite agreement between the government, the employers, and workers of Fiji. The purpose of the agreement is to establish the application of freedom of association and other international labour standards in the laws and practices of that country, which for years has posed a real problem for the workers and their trade unions. This unanticipated agreement allowed the government to avoid application of the most severe article of the ILO Constitution, article 26 , which provides for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into violations of labour standards. We congratulate our worker colleague Félix Anthony, leader of the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC), and hope that this tripartite agreement, which was signed under the supervision of the ILO Director-General, will be put into practice. We will have an initial evaluation of the application of this agreement on Fiji in June, and in November 2015 at the Governing Body.

So far as the Programme and Budget is concerned, the Office found a balance that takes account of the goals set by the workers for the next two years. Although the Programme and Budget was attacked by the employers, agreement was eventually reached, with unanimity. This constitutes a success for the Office and for the Director-General.

We also welcome the conclusions of the Meeting of Experts on Non-Standard Forms of Employment; this was also a success for ILO.

However, there were some difficult issues tackled at this session. For example, the case of Qatar, where 1.7 million migrant workers are being subjected to conditions of slavery, with the complicity of recruitment agencies. These migrant workers have neither contracts nor salaries. They work and live in inhumane conditions far from their families. The Employers’ Group and the Workers’ Group proposed sending a high-level tripartite mission, but this was rejected by the government. To date, for purportedly “economic” reasons, the Government of Qatar is supported by several governments, including but not limited to the governments of the countries that are sending workers there in the hope of earning money. This situation is unacceptable. At the level of the Workers’ Group, we would like to send a mission that, taking the reality on the ground as a starting point, could propose measures for the government to take and technical assistance to come to the aid of migrant workers in Qatar. The government could also prove its commitment by ratifying the protocol of 2014 to the ILO Convention on Forced Labour, No. 29 , on the elimination of contemporary forms of slavery.

ACTRAV INFO: The question of the right to strike was on the agenda again at this session. How to do you evaluate the results of the discussions on the right to strike?

We have discussed this many times before without finding a solution. Remember that last November, faced with an impasse on the right to strike, the Workers’ Group proposed that the issue be referred to the International Court of Justice. Almost half of the Governing Body was in favour of this option but the impasse persisted…that’s why we made contact with governments and employers to try to find a solution. For us workers, the right to strike is a part of ILO Convention No. 87 . Remember that for years employers had always respected the advice pertaining to the jurisprudence of the Committee of Experts; since 2012, they have no longer accepted it and we have made several attempts at negotiation. Finally, shortly before the preparatory meeting on the right to strike organized by the Office in February 2015, we reached an agreement with the employers, who recognized the right to strike on a case by case basis. The governments, for their part, recognized the right to strike as being a part of freedom of association and necessarily related to collective bargaining. And indeed the Freedom of Association Committee did once again accept some unanimous conclusions on several right to strike cases. Naturally, with this development, we are also relying on the Standards Committee examining a list of cases at the next session of the International Labour Conference. I believe that there is a shared political will by governments, employers and workers to extricate ILO from this impasse on the right to strike.

These are the new perspectives that are emerging, which do bring risks, certainly, but I think that for the future of ILO, this is a chance – an opportunity – that we have before us here.

ACTRAV INFO: The protection of vulnerable workers was mentioned at this session – at the level of the Workers’ Group, what solutions do you have in mind for the protection of vulnerable workers?

There is growing inequality throughout the world today, and this is a phenomenon that can be seen in both developed and developing countries.

In order to ensure the protection of vulnerable workers, they must be represented by trade unions with the right to negotiate. These workers must have a work contract and a decent salary, without any discrimination. A minimum wage high enough to live on and social security are some solutions that would allow vulnerable workers to live with decency. We also hope that ILO’s action to protect vulnerable workers will form part of a synergy of actions by the United Nations under the post-2015 development agenda.

ACTRAV INFO: Transitioning from the informal to the formal economy will be on the agenda at the next session of the International Labour Conference in June 2015. What are your expectations for these tripartite discussions?

This will be the second time that the International Labour Conference has tackled this issue. We remain optimistic. The Workers’ Group has already made contact with the employers in order to negotiate progress on this issue. In some countries today, more than 80% of workers are in the informal economy. I think that for many governments, the formalization of the informal economy is something they would welcome.

And for employers, informal work signifies unfair competition because, as it is not organized by genuine employers, they do not negotiate in the usual way with workers of the informal economy.

At the ILO level, it’s possible that there might be a recommendation to try to regulate the transition from the informal to the formal economy. We would really like to see that recommendation come to pass, because it is an important first step towards supporting the workers of the informal economy.

EU Delegation for the Pacific welcomes signing of Tripartite agreement

Suva,
Fiji
27 March 2015
Local EU Statement on the signing of the tripartite agreement
The European Union Delegation for the Pacific issues the following statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission in Fiji:
The European Union Delegation warmly welcomes the signing of the tripartite agreement between the Government of Fiji, the Fiji Trades Union Congress and the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation in the margins of the ILO Governing Board meeting in Geneva. The European Union Delegation looks forward to its joint implementation by the three parties.
ENDS

Unions, ILO and State sign agreement

Unions, ILO and State sign agreement
Fiji Times: Felix Chaudhary And Timoci Vula
Friday, March 27, 2015

The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with the Director General of ILO, Guy Ryder witness the signing of the tripartite agreement in Geneva.

The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with the Director General of ILO, Guy Ryder witness the signing of the tripartite agreement in Geneva. Picture: Supplied

AN agreement signed at the eleventh hour by Government, Fiji Trades Union Congress and Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation to address decrees which affect workers’ rights in the country has been hailed as an important step by the International Labour Organisation.

As a result of the signing, the ILO has deferred a Commission of Inquiry into Fiji – the ILO’s highest-level investigative procedure that is generally set up when a member State is accused of committing persistent and serious violations, and has repeatedly refused to address them.

The agreement was signed at the ILO Governing Body in Geneva on Wednesday by Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jioje Konrote, Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation CEO Nesbitt Hazelman and Fiji Trades Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony.

The FTUC and FCEF hailed the agreement as a positive move by Government in addressing legislation related to workers’ rights which breached ILO core conventions.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum also expressed Government’s support and acknowledged the goodwill shown by all sides.

“The Government believes in adhering to international standards. It therefore looks forward, on a tripartite basis through the ERAB (Employment Relations Advisory Board) mechanism, to the implementation of the core ILO conventions,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said in a Government statement.

He said the Government had also agreed to specific milestones and time frames to be achieved before the November session of the ILO governing body.

“There is obviously a lot of focused attention that is required from now until then. We look forward to the co-operation of the social partners (unions and employers) for implementation.

“The goodwill shown by all sides in Geneva has to be the basis of the tripartite engagement in Fiji to ensure that we, as one team, facilitate further sustained economic growth and an improvement in the well-being of all Fijians.”

ILO director-general Guy Ryder said: “The joint efforts of the Government, employers and workers to solve social conflict have proven their value in more than 90 years of ILO history. I am confident that the values of such tripartite social dialogue will also benefit Fiji now.”

Mr Anthony said while his organisation welcomed the agreement, real progress would require commitment from the stakeholders involved.

“We are under no illusion that this will require a great deal of good faith by all parties,” he said.

“The FTUC remains committed to the restoration of workers’ rights in Fiji.

“We look forward to the full implementation of this agreement.

“This, we hope, will mark a new beginning for industrial relations in Fiji.”

FCEF president Howard Politini said the agreement provided a platform for improved relations between employers, workers and the Government.

“We are really happy that we can move forward in this issue,” Mr Politini said.

“It brings clarity to the way forward and fosters good relations between employers, employees and the nation at large and creates the right platform for moving the country forward.”

Under the tripartite agreement, the parties have consented to review labour laws, including the Essential National Industries Decree under the ERAB mechanism.

They have also agreed that labour legislation should comply with ILO core conventions.

They also agree that any further issues and recommendations for review should be negotiated through the ERAB mechanism.

ILO Welcomes signing of Agreement

GENEVA – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has welcomed an agreement signed by Fiji’s tripartite constituents  to use the Employment Relations Promulgation (ERP) as the primary basis for labour management relations in the country.

The agreement was signed by the Minister for Employment, Productivity & Industrial Relations, Jioji K. Konrote, the Chief Executive of Fiji’s Commerce & Employers Federation, Nesbitt D. F. Hazelman, and General-Secretary of Fiji’s Trade Union Congress, Felix Anthony.

Fiji has been the focus of attention by the ILO Governing Body over the past years regarding allegations of breaches of ILO Convention 87 .

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder welcomed the agreement, saying that “the joint efforts of the government, employers and workers to solve social conflict have proven their value in more than 90 years of ILO history – I am confident that the values of such tripartite social dialogue will also benefit Fiji now.”

The parties agreed that the review of labour laws conducted under the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) mechanism should ensure compliance with ILO core Conventions. They also agree that any further issues and recommendations for review should be negotiated through the ERAB mechanism.

Following the tripartite agreement, the ILO Governing Body – in session until 27 March – decided to defer the decision to consider the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to its next session in November.

Intervention by National Secretary FTUC at the ILO GB session

Intervention by National Secretary, Mr. Felix Anthony, FTUC at the 323rd Session of the ILO Governing Body Meeting in Geneva

Mr. President,
We have after a very difficult period reached an agreement that lays down a firm path to addressing the concerns of the Fijian Workers, the Committee of Experts and the Governing Body. We recognise that a lot of effort is required on part of the social partners. An enormous amount of goodwill and good faith will also be needed to realise the goals we have set ourselves. To this end, the Workers group in Fiji is fully committed to ensure that we deliver what we have signed.
The ILO Core Conventions will be the guiding rule in all our deliberations. We have set firm deadlines for what needs to be done. We have agreed that the Employment Relations Promulgation, which is the principle labour legislation, shall form the basis of employment relations in Fiji for all workers. We have agreed that there will be a tripartite process that will drive the work plan. We have also agreed on the restoration of Trade Union check off facility. This creates the right environment to commence our work. Mr. President, we intend to meet our Social Partners soon after we return home to commence the work that we have undertaken. No Doubt, workers in Fiji will eagerly await to see the changes and the restoration of their rights in the near future. This is and can be only possible with the continued assistance and oversight of the Governing Body. In this regard we have undertaken to report to the June Session on progress and a review of the decision in November.
In the course of negotiations, difficult decisions have had to be made. We have placed the focus firmly on workers in Fiji and how in the shortest period of time we could restore rights and dignity at the workplace. Questions often arose as to whether what we seek to achieve will be honored by Government and I must admit, at times this got me seriously thinking. However, I am convinced and have been assured by Government
of their desire to act upon the commitments in the Agreement and create a new environment conducive to harmonious labour management relations. I thank the Attorney General of Fiji for reassuring the Governing Body that Government is serious about its obligations in the Agreement and will act upon them in good faith. Mr. President, there can be no progress without hope and commitment. We will persevere. If at the end of day, we are not able to achieve what we have now set out to achieve, we all can say that we made the best efforts possible and that the GB will have absolutely no doubt on the course of action come November. I certainly hope that won’t be necessary.
Mr. President, Finally I would like to place on record the appreciation of the workers of Fiji to the DG, the Office and members of the GB for the advice, support and encouragement offered to us to reach the agreement we have. Without your collective support, this would not be possible. But above all, this case demonstrates that the ILO Supervisory Mechanisms do work.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Commission of Inquiry into Fiji averted at ILO Governing Body Session in Geneva

FTUC National Secretary Mr Felix Anthony

Press Release
Commission of Inquiry into Fiji Averted
The ILO Governing Body today (25th March) agreed to defer the decision to appoint a Commission of Inquiry until the November Session in light of the Tripartite Agreement signed by the FTUC, FCEF and Government.
The FTUC, FCEF and Government today signed an agreement to ensure that workers’ rights in Fiji would conform to the ILO Core Labour Standards. The Parties met after agreeing on preliminary matters to negotiate an agreement.
The Agreement lays down the groundwork for the amendment of all labour laws that violate Core Labour Standards including the Decrees. The Parties agreed that the Employment Relations Promulgation (ERP) would form the primary basis for labour management relations in Fiji. The FTUC maintains that all workers must be covered by the ERP as it is the principle Employment relations law.
The work of the Employment Relations Advisory Board that reviewed all labour laws noting the recommendations of Committee of Experts of ILO Report and ILO Conventions be the will be taken into consideration when the ERAB negotiates any further issues raised by any social partners. Any recommendations shall comply with ILO Standards. Government has undertaken to draft legislation based on the recommendations of ERAB and will present the draft Bill to ERAB for vetting prior to being presented to Cabinet and Parliament.
The Parties have agreed to a maximum time limit for such an exercise. Government must present the Bill to Parliament at the latest by end of August 2015 and after passed by Parliament must implement the new laws at the latest by end of October 2015. These timelines must be observed.
Government has also agreed to reinstate Union check off with immediate effect. This is Union subscription deductions that Government had ceased some years ago. This is a positive move.
The parties also agreed to submit a joint implementation report to the ILO Governing Body in June. This report will indicate the progress of the work that the Parties have undertaken by entering into this agreement. The Governing Body will be able to monitor progress or lack of it and may offer guidance.
The Decision to establish a Commission of Inquiry has been deferred to the November session of the Governing Body. This decision will largely depend on the Government meeting its commitments as stated in the Agreement. This agreement is witnessed by the Director General of ILO.
The FTUC welcomes the agreement reached. We are under no illusion that this will require a great deal of good faith by all parties. The FTUC remains committed to the restoration of workers’ rights in Fiji. The agreement to reinstate check off is also positive and will encourage good faith. We look forward to the full implementation of this agreement. This we hope will mark a new beginning for Industrial Relations in Fiji.
Felix Anthony
National  Secretary

*ends*

The UN misled again by the AG of Fiji

FTUC PRESS RELEASE : 20.3.15

AG Misleads UN Yet Again
During the last Hearing of the United Nations Human Rights Council, one recommendation was that Fiji establishes a Constitutional Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the 2013 Constitution and carry out a national consultation to ensure that the Constitution is reflective of the will of the people. The Attorney General responded and advised the Council that the Constitution that came into force on 7th September 2013 “is the expression of the will of the people” and therefore any amendment of the Constitution would only be conducted through the process stipulated under the Constitution whereby Parliamentary approval must be sought for a referendum.
The FTUC disputes this assertion as thoroughly misleading and borders on a lie. The expression of the will of the people was captured by the Yash Ghai draft after more than 7000 submissions by people and organizations from around the country. This Government thrashed that draft constitution and imposed the current Constitution on the people of Fiji. This fact is on record and no amount of government propaganda will change this. The FTUC calls on Government to demonstrate sincerity and honesty and not mislead the international community as this only brings disrepute to Fiji. This has become common knowledge and a serious problem which is also recognized at the ILO.
The provision to change the Constitution was the brainchild of the very people who run Government now. The AG is in a position to ensure that Parliament approves a referendum but will not do so. Instead he uses the excuse that the
Constitution will not allow a referendum. He conveniently forgot to tell the UN that it was his regime that imposed such harsh conditions that it is almost impossible to change the Constitution without his concurrence. All for the sake of protecting those responsible for the coups and the atrocities that followed over many years and many of it criminal in nature. These atrocities include denial of basic human rights guaranteed under the UN Charter.
It is time that this Government is put under scrutiny whenever they make any pronouncements abroad. The FTUC also calls upon the media to be vigilant and seriously carry out its responsibility to ensure accountability and take to task anyone or Government and not just critics of Government. Sadly we do not see that today and partly so because we continue to live in a dictatorship and restrictions remain, despite elections and so called democracy.
The FTUC calls upon the AG and his Government to call a referendum on the Constitution. If the AG truly believes that the Constitution is an “expression of the will of the people”, he should have no hesitation in conducting a referendum.
Similarly, the AG has advised the UN that Government MOU on the future of labour relations reflects the intentions of the social partners. He again conveniently forgot to tell the UN that the social partners disagree and its MOU does not address the real issues in regards to the denial of workers’ rights and the continued effect of the decrees he imposed that violate International Conventions.

Felix Anthony  National Secretary FTUC

*ENDS*

FTUC reiterates on the ENI Decree

Talks a ‘sham’

Reporter – Felix Chaudhary – Fiji Times
Thursday, March 12, 2015

Picture: Fiji Trades Union Congress National Secretary Felix Anthony. 

THE Fiji Trades Union Congress has labelled recent talks organised by the Government for a proposed review of the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree as a “sham”.

FTUC National Secretary Felix Anthony questioned why trade unions and the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation were not invited to the consultations which were hosted by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and Employment Minister Jioje Konrote earlier this week.

“This is just a show, prior to Government meeting with the International Labour Organisation’s governing body in Geneva,” he said.

“The ILO and its governing body has already made very clear that a number of decrees have to be repealed and this includes the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree and Administration of Justice Decree, among others. The A-G knows this because the recommendation from the ILO and its governing body are with Government.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum issued a statement on Tuesday saying employer and employee groups that fell under the provisions of the decree had had consultations with himself and Employment Minister Jioje Konrote on Monday.

He said any changes to the decree would take place within the context of ensuring sustainability of employment, job creation and the economic well-being of all Fijians.

The A-G said once the review was completed, any proposed amendments to the law would be submitted to Cabinet for consideration and eventually be introduced in Parliament.

FTUC comments on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stance on Fiji Human Rights

FTUC comments on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stance on Fiji Human Rights

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has demonstrated his naivety when commenting on Fiji as an example to the world. Clearly this “High Commissioner” is not aware about Fiji other than what he has heard from the Prime Minister. He has not researched what the people of Fiji have gone through over the past few years since this Prime Minister carried out a military coup. We would appreciate  if the High Commissioner sought information  on Fiji’s record at the sister UN organization, the ILO, he may have received some very crucial and correct information .
The ITUC and FTUC are  disapppointed at the comments that  have been uttered by the UN High Office based on what the PM of Fiji has solely informed him on.
See Article below Fiji Sun online March 05 16:26 2015

Fiji Receives High Praise From UN High Commissioner For Human Rights

The Government’s progress in delivering human rights to all Fijians has been warmly praised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
During talks in Geneva with the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, the High Commissioner spoke of the PM’s determined leadership on human rights reforms and said it was a rare pleasure to meet with the Head of Government of a country making such exemplary progress.
As examples, he cited Fiji’s complete abolition of the death penalty – a policy he described as noxious – and the progress it is making in ratifying the United Nations Convention Against Torture ( UNCAT).
Congratulating the Prime Minister on what he called his fine speech to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, the High Commissioner said his office wanted to use Fiji as an example to other countries which had yet to implement the same kind of progressive measures.
He also expressed a desire to visit Fiji to witness the reforms that are being implemented – something the Prime Minister said he would welcome. During their talks, the PM had again highlighted the priority the Government is giving to implementing a range of socio-economic rights, such as the right to clean water. And he repeated his invitation for UN Special Rapporteurs on Water and Education to come to Fiji to examine the progress being made in these areas.
The High Commissioner also praised Fiji for what he termed its enormous contributions to the international community in the area of peace-keeping. He said Fiji had demonstrated clearly that the size of any country was no barrier to the impact it could make in multilateral affairs.
In addition, the High Commissioner said his Office wanted to work more closely with Fiji’s Mission to the UN in Geneva to step up its assistance to the Pacific region.

Government resorts to Bully Tactics

Government resorts to Bully Tactics

Recently the Fijian Teachers Union has been vocal on the conduct of the Ministry of Education and its Minister. Various promotions were questioned which appeared to be unfair. The Ministry staff apparently were uneasy with anyone questioning their actions including their Minister. The Ministry threatened to stop deductions of credit union dues and other welfare deduction to the Union. This prompted the FTA to apologise in the traditional manner to the Minister.

Interestingly, The Ministry officials embarked on a lecture on professional behavior to the Union via an email to the Industrial Officer of FTA. Clearly the email demonstrated the lack of understanding of the demarcation between the role of trade unions and teachers as professionals. Trade Unions are there to defend the rights of their members and in doing so, if it disagrees with the actions of the Minister or his staff, there is nothing wrong. Trade Unions are not there simply to just promote professional advancement but also to stand up for members who feel they have been unfairly treated. The FTA was doing simply that. This unfortunate incident stinks. Clearly the Ministry of Education remains in the dictatorship mode (even after elections) and its actions can only be described as BULLY.

Does this now mean that Teachers Unions will have to tow the line or be victims of threat and bully tactics by the Ministry of Education? We at FTUC say shame on the Ministry and that this is just another demonstration of denial of trade union rights in Fiji.

Felix Anthony National Secretary FTUC

* ends

FTUC National Secretary writes to Fiji Sun on its recent (mis-)reporting tactics

Fiji Sun Editorial Comment today (pg 42. 5.3.2015)

The FTUC responds to the actions of the Fiji Sun who chose to comment , through its editorial column today,  on a  Media Statement sent out yesterday  on “ FTUC on PM’s Address  to the UN Human Rights Council” without publishing it. Below is the email sent to the Fiji Sun Reporter, Mr Nemani Delaibatiki,  by the  National Secretary FTUC, Mr Felix Anthony,  expressing dismay at the lack of  ethical and  balanced reporting by Mr Delaibatiki, the Training Editor of the Fiji Sun.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Dear Nemani,

I read once again with bemusement your editorial comment in your paper. You have chosen to comment on my press release without even reporting it. I ask if this is ethical at all. Clearly it is unpalatable for you to see any condemnation of Governments actions, no matter how ruthless or criminal in nature their actions are.

You have claimed that I have “resurrected the events of the past to substantiate”our “ campaign to discredit the Government.” I do not discredit the Government. The Governments own actions of the past do that very well. You do admit that the past was dark in the following paragraphs. However, we cannot forget the atrocities of the past and call it “broken records.” You would surely not say that if your son or a close family member was a victim. You are one of the privileged ones who has chosen to believe every word as gospel that Government says. As a journalist and an experienced one, you are doing discredit to your profession.

Understand, that when the Prime Minister stands up on the world stage and makes pronouncements as he did, he must be open to scrutiny. He must be reminded that what he said is untrue. That is what we call democracy. Of course our Prime Minister supposedly champions accountability. So why should he not be made accountable for his and his Governments actions. Why should you attempt to shield him. Don’t you believe in accountability?

In so far as the elections go and the question of mandate , let me simply say that despite all the skullduggery and media bias (which you were also part off) during and after the elections, the PDP received in excess of 18,000 votes. I also have the mandate of workers in this country. That’s our mandate to speak. What mandate do you have to tell me that the public is sick and tired of what happened in the past?

Nemani, I understand you have a job to keep. In the process please also try and have a conscious. It is indisputable that even today workers rights are denied. You are not allowed to speak your mind let alone print them. The very fact that your newspaper does not print our press releases indicates how free the press is or independent. Decrees that violate our rights cannot be challenged in Court and you say “we put all this behind us”. Well if we did, we would not be able to move forward.

You continue to harp on FTUC boycott of ERAB. Yes we chose not to participate until we are clear as to what role ERAB is to play other than a talk shop and a show for the world to see that “we are talking.” That’s a reasonable call. Would you not want to know why you are invited to any meeting? Common sense Nemani , nothing so complicated or sinister. The FTUC is willing to move forward and if you see my press release (which you did not publish) on the MOU you will see that I have called on Government to sign the MOU that was agreed to by all parties and the ILO Contacts Mission. You choose to ignore that. Moving forward for us does not mean we agree to everything the Government shoves down our throat as it means to you.

Nemani lets be clear. We want our rights back. We will not beg for them. They are our birth rights. Equality and justice belongs to all citizens of Fiji. There cannot be exemptions like immunity for criminal behavior. The fact that you support exemptions for the privileged and dislike “broken records” that remind you of the “dark past” tells us you condone such criminal behavior.

I don’t want to issue a press release knowing you will never report it. I will however put a copy of this email on the FTUC website for the record.

You have a good day
Felix Anthony

 

Ends*

PRESS  RELEASE
HUMAN RIGHTS STILL ELUSIVE

The FTUC rejects the claims by the Prime Minister in his address to 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council that his Government had delivered the biggest right of all – the right to equality and justice for all citizens. This is definitely a case of loss in memory on part of the Prime Minister or a deliberate effort to mislead the world.

Fiji has never in its history witnessed serious violations of human rights as it did following the 2006 military coups led by the Prime Minister himself. For the first time in our history we witnessed the murder of soldiers and civilians, the detention, beating and torture of trade union leaders, NGO representatives and citizens who chose to stand up. We witnessed intimidation of citizens all around the country like never before. We witnessed the control on media and still do. We witnessed the rights of workers being taken away. These rights still don’t exist. The Prime Minister talk of justice for all is hollow when the perpetrators of beatings, torture, intimidation and murders have still not been made to account for their actions before the law. This Government has given itself absolute immunity for any illegal acts it committed since 2006 and yet tells the world that there is justice for all citizens. We ask, how there is equality for all when the Prime Minister and his lot enjoyed absolute immunity from prosecution. Honesty clearly is not the hallmark of this Government.

This Government talks of equality. Yet it did not allow its citizens to have a say on the Constitution it imposed on the people. It talks of the Bill of Rights in The Constitution portraying the Governments generosity in granting all the rights but tragically omits to talk about the limitations on each of these rights within the same Bill of Rights. These limitations allow for the Decrees that violate workers’ rights, human rights and our rights to seek justice denied. All these Decree do not allow for any legal challenge or appeal.
We Remind the Government that the people of Fiji enjoyed substantial rights enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the Rights of workers enshrined in the ILO Core Conventions prior to this Government taking office. These rights have now been denied to the people. The ILO Committee of Experts has repeatedly stated that Fiji is in violation of ILO Core Conventions on workers’ rights. The Governing Body of ILO listed Fiji as one of the 5 worst violators of Workers’ Rights in the world. These are on record.

Fiji is on the ILO Governing Body Agenda to answer for the violations and advise the Governing Body on remedial action to restore those rights. It is time this Government stops believing its own propaganda. The world is not so naïve to believe all is well in Fiji just because we had elections, again through the generosity of the current Prime Minister.
We remind the Prime Minister that Human and Workers Rights are our birth rights and he and his Government have absolutely no right to take them away or restrict them and then claim credit for the little rights that citizens enjoy today or even claim credit for elections. Instead he should answer for all the violations that have taken place and seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
The FTUC calls on the Prime Minister to walk his talk and restore full human and trade Union rights to all the citizens. This can be done by the revocation or repeal of all Decrees that violate any rights and to embark on a public consultation and referendum on a Constitution for Fiji that truly reflects the will of the people. This is a sure way to demonstrate sincerity and a sustainable way forward for Fiji. This would be a louder pronouncement of progress in restoring human rights than just blowing our trumpet out of tune at the UN.
Felix Anthony
National Secretary

 

ends.

Right to Strike Reaffirmed at ILO – ITUC

Mine workers on strike in Fiji (Picture : fightback.org.nz)

By ITUC

Sharan Burrows – General Secretary

“Brussels, 25 February 2015 (ITUC OnLine): A breakthrough has been made at the International Labour Organization following two years during which employers at the International Labour Organization brought the UN body’s global supervisory system to a standstill, in an attempt to eliminate decades of ILO jurisprudence supporting the right to strike. Union and employer representatives have now reached an understanding at a special ILO meeting this week to end the impasse, based on recognition of the right to take industrial action, backed by explicit recognition from governments of the right to strike, linked to ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association. The agreement comes on the back of a hugely successful international union mobilisation on 18 February, which involved more than 100 actions in over 60 countries in support of the right to strike.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “Having created the crisis, employer groups and some governments were refusing to allow the issue to be taken to the International Court of Justice even though the ILO Constitution says it should be. We’ve now managed to negotiate a solution which protects the fundamental right of workers to take strike action, and allows the ILO to resume fully its work to supervise how governments respect their international labour standards obligations.”

Fair Trade Certification for Sugar Under Scrutiny Again

(Picture : theprisma.co.uk)

“Government’s and Fiji Sugar Corporation’s refusal to respect workers’ rights in the Sugar Industry has again endangered the fair trade certification which Fiji Sugar enjoys. Millions of dollars are earned through this certification that go towards farmers and community projects by the Cane Producers Associations set up by the authorities to counter the Farmers Unions.
It is time that the Government and FSC take heed of their obligations and ensure respect for workers’ rights in the industry. They will have no one else to blame if the certification is lost but themselves. In any case respecting workers’ fundamental rights is the right thing to do. Fair Trade or No Fair Trade Certification. The FTUC urges Government to act now.”
Felix Anthony

FTUC National Secretary

(Contents of the letter by our sister union reps sent to PM are shown below)

 

 

Prime Minister of Fiji,
Frank Bainimarama
Suva, Fiji
26 January 2015

Labour Rights in the Fiji Sugar Sector

Hon. Prime Minister,
We are writing on behalf of Fairtrade International, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF).
As you set your government’s agenda for 2015, we are certain that ensuring the long-term viability of the sugar industry, which accounts for 40% of merchandise exports, 12% of GDP and which employs 25% of the workforce, is high on the government’s list of priorities. At the same time, we recognise the challenge posed to all ACP countries including Fiji from the removal of production quotas on European beet sugar, which now put the livelihoods of cane farmers and mill workers, and the survival of sugar cane industries at risk.

As you know, Fairtrade has supported cane growers in Fiji to organize themselves into smallholder organisations and to achieve Fairtrade certification, so that their product can be sold as Fairtrade refined sugar in export markets. For the past three years, sugar buyers have paid several millions of dollars to the Fijian cane farmers as Fairtrade Premium, which farmers invest in their businesses and their communities. This has had a positive social and economic impact on the lives of Fiji farmers and
their rural communities.

At the same time, we remain deeply concerned by the serious restrictions on freedom of association and collective bargaining previously decreed by the government, which have been criticized by the International Labour Organization. Further, owning and controlling the Fiji Sugar Corporation, the
government has and continues to refuse to recognize the union representing sugar mill workers and has failed to respect their existing collective agreement. This situation has persisted since 2011. When workers sought to exercise their right to strike over wages, police and military were deployed, and workers reported that they were harassed and intimidated until they were forced to abandon their action. These actions by the government have put at risk the success of sugar cane farmers who today benefit from Fairtrade. An ILO mission to Fiji in October 2014 confirmed serious violations of the right to freedom of association, which are having a direct and serious impact on Fijian workers, and urged your government to act.

In order to commence a fresh start, we respectfully call upon the new Government to address this situation urgently. In particular we would urge that the Government:

1. Consistent with Fiji’s obligations under ratified ILO conventions, and in line with ILO observations, revise laws and decrees so that workers are able to exercise their right to freedom of association, to organise and to bargain collectively;
2. Initiate good faith collective negotiations with the trade unions representing sugar mill workers with the aim of reaching a new collective agreement as soon as possible;
3. Resolve the more than 30 disputes in the sugar sector concerning breaches of the collective agreement and unfair disciplinary actions that remain unresolved (some for over 5 years) before the Employment Relations Tribunal;
4. Reform the new Election Code so that union elections and registration remain with the Registrar of Trade Unions rather than the Election Commission, whose decisions are unreviewable;

We remain at your disposal to support resolution of the aforementioned issues, which we believe to be critical for the future of the Fiji sugar industry. We know that the coming years will be challenging ones for the long term sustainability of the Fijian sugar cane industry, and we are convinced that securing the rights of workers in the mills, alongside existing benefits received through Fairtrade for the sugar farmers, is now both urgent and vital. We are available to meeting with your government to discuss these steps together.

Respectfully,
Sharan Burrow,General Secretary – ITUC

Ron Oswald, General Secretary – IUF

Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive Officer – Fairtrade International

Letter-January-2015

PM Again With the Promises to ILO

The PM has once again done his traditional act of writing to the Director General of ILO Guy Ryder giving assurances of Government action on the labour laws. This has become a bit of a tradition where the PM writes and makes promises which are never kept. He has been at it since 2011 in the hope that the GB will believe him and defer any further decision on Fiji’s continued violation of workers rights and Core Labour Standards.

The FTUC has made its position very clear and is not prepared to be part of the continuing talks that don’t seem to have an end.

Please click on the link below to retrieve the letter

LETTER TO ILO – PM

FTUC National Secretary, Felix Anthony recently wrote to the the Labour Minister, Jioji Konorote highighting FTUC’s concerns about the ever changing stances of the government.

The contents of the letter are as follows:

Hon. Jioji Konrote
Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations
P O Box 2216
Government Buildings
SUVA

Dear Sir,

RE: GOVERNMENT’S DRAFT MOU ON THE FUTURE OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

We thank you for the Draft MOU which we received on Tuesday 17th February 2015.

We note that the Government’s Draft is a major deviation from the original agreed draft signed by the Employers Group and the Workers Group during the visit of the ILO Contact Mission on 11th October 2014. The content of the MOU was circulated to all three social partners before the 10th of October 2014 and parties were free to make suggestions for change. Amendments were made and in fact an amendment suggested by Government on the very day of signing was agreed to by the two social partners. Unfortunately, Government decided not to sign at the last minute. We were then assured by yourself that Government remained committed to respecting workers’ rights and ILO Conventions ratified by Government. We have since waited for Government to act upon its undertaking. Now just weeks before the ILO Governing Body Meeting we receive a new document for signing.

The FTUC has considered the proposed MOU by Government carefully and advises that we cannot agree to be a party to a document that does not correctly reflect the position of all social partners and the undertaking that the Prime Minister gave the Director General of ILO in his correspondence of 23rd May 2012 for the following reasons.

It is apparent that the Government is using this opportunity to get the social partners to legitimize the adoption of the Constitution of Fiji. The FTUC has always taken the position that any Constitution needs the approval of the people of Fiji either through their elected representatives or by a referendum. This was not the case. We believe that this matter is not relevant in this instance.

Your second paragraph highlights the Bill of Rights but disregards the limitations within the Constitution on each of those rights. These limitations could be interpreted to allow for the Right to Freedom of Association to be restricted – a concern raised by the ILO mission. We are concerned that they could be cited to allow the current repressive decrees to continue in effect, thus denying workers in the public and private sectors their fundamental rights. This denial of rights has been comprehensively covered in the reports of the Committee of Experts of the ILO, the ILO mission report, and in resolutions of the Asia Pacific Regional Conference of ILO and the Governing Body of the ILO.

You will recall that the ERAB Sub Committee has spent considerable time in the review of the ERP, the Decrees, Reports of the Committee of Experts and Conventions recently ratified by Government. The work of this Committee was extensively reported to the Governing Body of ILO by Government Representatives. A schedule of all meetings and attendance by officials of each Social Partner was also appended to the report accompanied by a letter from the Prime Minister to the Director General of ILO dated 24th January 2014. The Governing Body took note of the work that had been undertaken. The work of the ERAB was to have been taken to Cabinet for approval. This was the undertaking that the Prime Minister gave and indeed reflected in the original MOU that was signed by the two social partners.

Your proposed MOU now calls for a fresh review and notably to ensure compatibility with only the Constitution with no reference to compliance with Core ILO Conventions. You only state that ILO shall be part of the review. Mr. Minister, we need a reassurance and undertaking that your Government is indeed serious about ensuring full compliance with the ILO Core Conventions and will act upon the reports of the Committee of Experts immediately. This needs to be reflected in any MOU that FTUC will enter into. There is absolutely no need to conduct an entire review again which will be time consuming and could go on for years thus delaying any remedial action now. I take this opportunity to remind the Government that the ILO has since 2011 raised concerns over the decrees and violations. The government has given many reasons for the delay in acting upon the concerns raised. This MOU is going to further allow Government to indefinitely delay action.

May I quote the Prime Minister from his correspondence of 23rd May 2012 to the Director General of ILO at paragraph 10:

“My Government has already activated a process with the tripartite social partners at the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) meeting of 11th April, 2012 in order to initiate further steps to reform and modernize the current labour laws. A tripartite technical Advisory Committee of ERAB has been appointed at the meeting tasked to review all current labour laws relative to the Articles of the eight ILO Core Conventions and other relevant conventions Fiji has ratified. The Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment is expected to receive the ERAB recommendations for his consideration in July 2012 before Cabinet is advised in August 2012.”

The second last paragraph of the proposed MOU, is in our view, only applicable if remedial action is taken to ensure full compliance of the Conventions and report of the Committee of Experts. It was never intended to just keep ILO engaged while the violations continued indefinitely.

Mr. Minister, these are just some of the reasons we announce our disagreement to your proposed MOU. We also hope that Government is not going to attempt to engage the social partners in the last weeks before the Governing Body Meeting to explain away why it has failed to act so far. Indeed this has been a trend. It is for this reason that we have put our position in writing.

I urge you Minister to sign the MOU agreed to with the Contacts Mission and for your Government to take some concrete positive steps to restore workers’ rights without undue delay. Indeed this was the expectation of the Governing Body when it last met in November 2014 and received the Contact Mission’s Report which once again confirmed the serious violations and inaction of Government thus far.

Yours Sincerely,

FELIX ANTHONY
NATIONAL SECRETARY

Copy: Director General – ILO
Regional Director – ILO
Chairperson Employers Group – GB ILO
Chairperson Workers Group – GB ILO
President – Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation

Encl: MOU (Original Signed by Employers and Workers Rep.)
MOU (Government Proposal)

Letter to Labour Minister

Losses for Govt Owned Entities, Including FBC

The latest Auditor General’s reports for government commercial companies highlights that out of the 15 entities audited, Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited, Rewa Rice Limited and Fiji Hardwood Corporation recorded losses in their operations.

The 2014 report which has been tabled in parliament highlights that the state owned broadcaster, FBC has been incurring losses for the last four years – $516,943 loss in 2010, $1.137 million loss in 2011, $7.1 million loss in 2012 and $5.6 million in 2013.

The Auditor General’s report states that the deficit of $342,887 for the shareholder’s equity in FBC’s Statement of Financial position indicate that the company does not have enough assets which stands at $22.4 million to match all FBC’s borrowing to external parties totalling $22.7 million.

The Auditor General said the major component of the liability is interest bearing borrowings of $19.4 million in 2013 guaranteed by the government.

The audit said that the losses reported for FBC for the past four years demonstrate high operating costs incurred especially as the result of the expansion of the company into the television business and the company’s inability to generate adequate revenue in addition to the government contribution to finance its business costs.

The Auditor General’s report said that the company may also need some expert review of its business operations to identify areas that may need to be streamlined to reduce its business costs.

Meanwhile the audit says FBC’s recorded net loss of $7.1 million in 2012 compared to a net loss of $1.13 million was mainly attributed to the increase in depreciation expenses from the upgrading works relating to the launch of the company’s TV services which were still in progress in 2011.

There were also increases in program expenses, motor vehicle expenses, salaries and wages and finance costs.

The 2013 net loss was $5.6 million.

Total expenditure for the state owned broadcaster in 2012 was $13.6 million while the expenditure for 2013 was $14 million.

The total income was $6.6 million dollars in 2012 and $8.4 million in 2013.

It has also been noted that the company accounts for all government grants received after 1st January 2010 as capital contribution.

This is a departure from International Accounting Standards accounting for government grants provided to compensate the company for expenses incurred to be recognized in profit or loss as other income on a systematic basis in the same period that the expenses are recognized.

Rewa Rice Limited recorded a loss of $54,497 in 2009 compared to a profit of $8,204 in 2008.

The loss is mainly attributed to the decrease in sales by $177,874.

For Fiji Hardwood Corporation, losses incurred in 2007 were $25.8 million and $1.9 million in 2008.

The net loss recorded by the Corporation resulted mainly from the changes in the fair value of forest assets.

12 government commercial companies have recorded growth or profits according to the 2014 Auditor General’s reports.

Airports Fiji Limited continues to record strong growth as it posted a $12.9 million profit in 2013 compared to $11.2 million in 2012.

This resulted mainly from an increase in total revenue by $1.1 million and a reduction in operating and finance expenses for the year.

The Fiji Electricity Authority made $32.5 million profit in 2013 compared to $75.3 million in 2012.

The reduction was mainly attributed to the increase in operating expenditure, specifically, fuel costs.

Fiji Ports Corporation Limited and subsidiaries recorded a net profit of $13.7 million in 2013 which is an increase of $6.4 million compared to 2012.

The increase was mainly attributed to the improvement in other revenue collections by $6.5 million.

The Fiji Ships and heavy Industries Limited recorded a profit of $1.08 million in 2013 compared to $965,998 profit in 2012.

The Fiji Development Bank recorded a consolidated operating profit of $4.8 million in 2014 compared to $5.5 million in 2013.

This is attributed to a decline in income received from interest from loans and reduction in fees.

PAFCO also recorded a profit in 2013.

Their profit stood at 2.1 million dollars in 2013 compared to a loss of $549,736 in 2012.

Housing Authority recorded a total comprehensive income after tax of $423,000 in 2013 compared to $523,000 in 2012.

The decline in comprehensive income by $100,000 was mainly due to increase in the cost of sales for the housing lots developed by the Authority.

http://fijivillage.com/news-feature/FBC-record-losses-from-2010-to-2013-259skr/

Why Strike?

From Industri All

“Eliminating this human right would have serious repercussions on us all.

Here are five key reasons why we need the right to strike:

  1. Striking is a last resort but sometimes the only tool for workers to protect themselves.

  2. To avoid being at the complete mercy of employers.

  3. To give more of a balance between worker and employer power.

  4. Without it, more and more governments will ban industrial action and punish people who dare to strike.

  5. Most strikes are over pay and better working conditions. Without the threat of strike action, corporations will be able to make bigger profits, while working conditions will get worse.”

http://www.industriall-union.org/5-reasons-why-we-need-the-right-to-strike

Fight for the Right to Strike

Daniel Urai with disgruntled Sheraton workers on strike

With the restraint put on workers in Fiji and their Right to Strike, the FTUC calls upon affiliates, human and workers’ rights advocates, civil rights organisations and other interested parties to support the Global Day of Action for the Right to Strike.

Convention 87 Right to Strike was recognised by the ILO in 1927 and ever since has been used as a most effective and the last resort by employees to air their grievances.

The last time workers in Fiji exercised this Right was when hotel workers at Sheraton went on strike after issues were not properly addressed by managers. The government labelled the action as illegal and proceeded to put an end to the walkout by the hotel employees.

The incident was also included in a Report submitted by FTUC .

The FTUC recognises the need to have this Right for workers in the country as more and more restrictions are placed on them. More industries are being roped in under the ENI (which takes away their Right to Strike), the NMW is still at a value that is way below the poverty level and many more violations are still being dished out to  Fiji labour . TheFTUC is adamant that the Right to Strike is necessary for the lives of workers and their families.

We call on supporters of Workers’ Rights to continue the fight for the Right to Strike and demand that the government recognises and lets workers utilise this Convention for their benefits and the benefits of their families.

FTUC Women’s Committee 2015-2016

The FTUC presents the members of the Women’s Committee for 2015 – 2016. The women were elected during the 45th BDC held on Saturday, February 7, 2015 in Nadi.

Teresa Ali (USPPHIJSU) – Chairperson
Mere Railala (NUHCTIE) – Vice Chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losalini Ulacake (FPSA) – Vice Chair
Melia Vuki (NUHCTIE) – Secretary
Rukshana Ali (FLGOA) – Treasurer

Committee Members

Salote Lawakeli (FASA)
Sima Kumar ( FTU)
Emi Silau (PAFCOEU)
Aruna Gounder (FEWA)

These  women have vowed to look after the welfare of women members within the FTUC and also female workers in general.

The Committee has urged female members of the 26 affiliates to develop more interest and commitment towards the betterment of women workers in the country.

New Youth Committee Vows to Uphold Union Values

The newly and re-elected Youth Committee members have sworn to commit themselves to upholding and fighting for the rights of young workers.

Re-elected to their positions wereChairperson Rajnesh Lingam and Secretary Mohnish Dutt  who led the meetings held on Saturday Feb 7, 2015.

The Committee members with the new inclusions are as follows:

President Rajnesh Lingam (FTU) – unopposed
Vice President 1 Emosi Fong (SAUF) – unopposed
Vice President 2 Abdul Israaz (FLGOA) – unopposed
Secretary Alvin Singh (NUFCW) – unopposed
Assistant Secretary Setareki Dawa (FSGWU) – unopposed

The Committee will also address the issue of motivating and encouraging young workers and young minds to mobilise and organise in their workplaces.

NMW Unrealisitic : FTUC

By RNZNews

The Fiji Trades Union Congress says the new minimum wage is too low and still does not come close to the rate set by the Wages Council many years ago.

Felix Anthony Photo: RNZ

The newly re-installed general secretary of the Congress, Felix Anthony, says the national minimum wage needs to meet Fiji’s poverty line at least.

The Fiji government has announced the minimum wage will go up 16 percent to $2.32 Fijian per hour from July the 1st.

It estimates about 100,000 workers will get more in their weekly wages but Mr Anthony says it’s not good enough.

At the moment we estimate the poverty line to be around about $187 a week for a family of four. The starting point needs to be a realistic starting point and not at $2 – $2.30. Because the gap is just too much.

The General Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, Felix Anthony.

Full Interview on RNZInternational

Successful BDC 2015 Outing for FTUC

Amidst the drama , the votes, the elections, the excitement, the enthusiasm, one thing was certainly clear at the 45th Biennial Delegates Conference of the FTUC. Democracy was well and truly alive and in action within the biggest trade union movement in Fiji.
Despite the negative media attention portrayed by well known government propagandist paper, Fiji Sun, FTUC held its elections at the Hexagon International Hotel on Saturday, February 7 in the presence of more than 300 delegates and observers from the different unions represented.

Debates and open discussions were the order of the day as union representatives flocked to vote for their Committee leaders.
The Secretariat prepared for the worst possible situation and the effort made towards preparations for the long overdue BDC paid off as the Programme continued without a hitch throughout the day.
The BDC is a biennial event that allows for the opportunity for affiliates to voice and address issues relevant to their unions. The 45th BDC was well represented by representatives of the 23 unions present and the FTUC acknowledges the contributions made and the issues raised by the members.

The FTUC and the members have vowed to continue to work together to be the voice for the struggling Fiji workers. In Solidarity…

Youth members during Youth Committee meeting
Women meet at the Women’s Committee meeting
Bro. Anthony speaks to newly elected Youth Committee members
Youth Committee 2015-2016 after elections
Outgoing Women’s Committee presenting their Report
Delegates line up to attend BDC
Members of the BDC
Bro Felix Anthony presents his Report as FTUC National Secretary 2012-2014
FTUC National Treasurer Agni Deo Singh talks to members of his FTU
Auditor Arun Narsey at the far right presents the FTUC ‘s Audited Accounts
FPSA ‘s GS Rajeshwar Singh raises a point during the meet
FSGWU President Indar Raj at the meet
Ballot papers counted by Scrutineers Committee members during elections
All elected members of the 3 Committees introduce themselves at the BDC
Delegates congratulate re-elected FTUC NS Felix Anthony
NUFCW GS John Mudaliar, second from left with other BDC delegates after the event

The FTUC takes this opportunity to acknowledge the effort shown by the unions as 23 unions sent representatives to participate in this event.
The end results of the day was the election of the Board members.
Daniel Urai of NUCHTIE ran unopposed for the National President position, FTU’s Agni Deo Singh for National Treasurer and newcomer Rouhit Karan Singh from FLGOA assumed responsibilities as Assistant National Secretary. Vidya Singh of FTU joins TWEAWU’s Apisai Bakabaka as VPs of thge Board.
Felix Anthony through the ballot box defeated rival Rajeshwar Singh 66 votes to 17 of the total 83 representatives of the financial unions. Bro. Anthony has now reassumed the position of FTUC National Secretary.

Shameful Salaries Forced Upon Teachers: FTU

“….the Minister for Education’s statement that teachers are placed at the lowest salary level because they are not competent or that their performance need to be assessed is most illogical and shameful.

These teachers are all competent to handle a class of their own. They are fully trained teachers, to put them on $12,360 p/a salary is exploitation at the highest level”.

FTU General Secretary, Agni Deo Singh spoke against the low salary level of teachers after the government did not increase the budgetary allocations of new teachers being brought into the system

More can be retrieved from the following link: FTU Press Release

Teachers with their class at Sigatoka International (Picture: stint.com)

Challenges for Unions in 2015: Sharan Burrows (ACTRAV Info)

ITUC General Secretary : Sharan Burrows

ACTRAV INFO: Looking back at 2014, what are the main achievements of the international trade union movement and which areas need improvement?

Sharan Burrow: The global economic environment remained very hostile for working people. The global economy is still not fixed, with unemployment still above the level at the start of the global financial crisis, and hundreds of millions of workers without jobs or social protection. Democratic space is being limited in more and more countries, and the level of trust in governments and institutions is lower than at any time in recent history.

Against this background, the ITUC Congress in May in Berlin focused on equipping the trade union movement for these challenges. The Congress, which was structured in a highly innovative and participative way, approved work plans in three key areas:

  • union growth;
  • sustainable jobs, secure incomes and social protection;
  • realising rights.

Union growth is essential if we are to be able to re-shape the world in a way which delivers social and economic justice. The ITUC Organising Academy, which trained over 500 people up to the end of the year, is a key element in supporting union growth. We are now seeing the alumni of the Academy, many of them young people and many women, taking up organising work in every region, using the skills and expertise that the Academy programme has helped them build. Organising is central to everything the ITUC does, and in 2014 a lot of effort went into building organising targets and strategies into our activities, with affiliates and with Global Union Federations, right across the scope of our work.

On sustainable jobs, secure incomes and social protection, we made real progress last year, although there is still a lot to do. We are seeing recognition of our demands in the international processes such as the UN Post-2015 objectives, and have built strong alliances with others working on economic justice and development issues.
A key part of this has been reinforcing the activities of workers in the informal economy to organise into unions and start formalising their jobs. This is a huge task, but we also know that these workers want to organise for dignity and rights at work, and we are there to help them.

We have also made a lot of progress on sustainable jobs. Climate change is a massive challenge for everyone on the planet. We have yet to see the necessary foresight and commitment from enough governments, but our agenda of just transition and job creation from moving to a low-carbon economy is becoming deeply embedded.
Realising rights is a constant challenge for the trade union movement throughout history. We have established a “watch list” of countries, and within that a list of priority countries where the threats to workers and workers’ rights are the greatest. That enables us to focus on solidarity where it is most needed, while at the same time maintaining our campaigning for workers’ rights everywhere.

We have boosted our legal work, and in 2014 began to build a global network of lawyers ready to intervene and defend rights at work. Publication of our global index is also adding to pressure for reform in a range of countries. We have also had success in pushing forward unionisation and rights for domestic workers, and have real momentum through our “Count Us In” programme to boost women’s representation within unions and thus in the labour market.

Our campaign against modern slavery has resonated across the world, with the scandal of the kafala system in the Gulf, and particularly Qatar with the 2022 World Cup. Qatar’s rulers have still not moved to respect fundamental labour rights and neither has FIFA, but the pressure is on and it is extremely strong. On a positive note, the International Olympic Committee has taken important leadership on workers’ rights and sporting events, with host cities bidding for future Olympics now having to show how they will ensure labour rights will be respected.

A key achievement was the establishment in 2014 of the new sub-regional structure for the Arab countries, the ATUC. Genuine and democratic trade unions in the region, which is rife with violations of workers’ rights, now have their own structure, while retaining their engagement with the existing ITUC Regional Organisations for Africa and Asia-Pacific.

In the end, it is the work of our affiliates, global union federations and trade unionists everywhere that can make our agenda successful, and I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and determination of so many people, in every corner of the world, to equality and justice for working people.

ACTRAV INFO: You are re-elected General Secretary of ITUC. What are your main challenges for this new mandate?

We have set three “frontlines” of action, arising from our Congress and our December General Council meeting:

  • Global Supply Chains, Minimum Living Wages and Formalising Informal Work, working with Global Unions Federations (GUFs) and affiliates to get decent minimum wage legislation and call global brands to account on the issue;
  • Eliminating Slavery and Forced Labour, with the Qatar campaign and ending kafala at the centre, along with making the ILO Forced Labour Protocol a reality globally; and,
  • Climate Justice and Industrial Transformation, where we will push hard for an ambitious climate agreement at the UN Paris Summit, backed up by just transition measures and supporting negotiations with employers to get onto a low-carbon trajectory with secure and decent jobs.

The groundwork we have laid in the past couple of years on women’s rights, migration, jobs for young people, worker’s rights, development and the other core issues will be developed through our strategic framework, and we’re also planning to step up work on occupational health and safety. An ambitious agenda, which can work with the engagement and support of unionists at the regional and national levels.

ACTRAV INFO: In 2015, the dispute with the employers on the right to strike will be at the centre of discussions in the ILO. What are your expectations regarding this discussion?

It is astounding that employers at the ILO want to try and undo decades of accepted legal jurisprudence, and their intransigent position undermines the ILO as a whole. If the employers continue to dispute the accepted jurisprudence of the ILO, then the issue must be referred to the International Court of Justice. Taking away the right to strike would turn all workers into slaves. We will continue to defend the ILO, and defending the right to strike is absolutely central to that.

ACTRAV INFO: The ILO will launch a debate on Global Supply Chains in 2016. How do you envisage the preparation of the trade unions’ input to this discussion?

We are putting a very strong effort into this. Supply chains today are for many millions of workers synonymous with exploitation, precarious and informal work, and even forced labour. Many workers come to work each day somewhere in a supply chain at risk to their lives. We are building up our research work, documentation and policy preparations for the ILO discussion, but we are also not waiting until 2016 to tackle this issue. Supply chains will be at the heart of our actions in 2015, as we support workers’ efforts to get union representation, decent work, fair wages and safe and healthy working conditions. Today, supply chains deliver only poverty wages to tens of thousands of households, keeping many families below the United Nations’s severe poverty line. That has to change and we are determined to change it.

http://www.ilo.org/actrav/media-center/news/WCMS_340075/lang–en/index.htm

NUFCW for the Plight of Factory & Commercial Workers

The National Union for Factory & Commercial Workers was established in 1965 through the effort of D. Barrett of the British Trade Union Congress. The unionist mobilised workers in the factory sector during a visit to Fiji in 1963.

NUFCW Headquarters at Unity House, Suva

Today more than 3000 workers are organised under the NUFCW banner with the guidance of the current General Secretary, John Mudaliar.

NUFCW organises workshops for its union members on a regular basis as the union believes that up-skilling of its members is key to positive development of the union and provides information for members to use during crises.

Participants at a recent workshop at NUFCW Hall

NUFCW General Secretary John Mudaliar

NUFCW is one of the premier union organisations affiliated to the Fiji Trades Union Congress

FPSA – Solidarity for Fiji’s Civil Servants

The Fiji Public Services Association is one of the largest union organisations in the country boasting more than 3000 members today.

FPSA was founded in 1943 with links to the Association of European Civil Servants which was formed back in 1921.

The FPSA has a long proud history of fighting for the rights of workers in the country. In 1973, the union, led by Mahendra Chaudhry led a three-day civil servants strike that challenged the government’s grievances and disputes machinery.

Ten years later the union shut down the airports for two days over the cost of living adjustment.

Members of the FPSA at a recent meeting. Image: FijiOne

The FPSA is now led by General Secretary Rajeshwar Singh and is one of the largest affiliates of the FTUC.

298 Waimanu Road
G.P.O. Box 1405
Suva
Fiji
Tel:
+6793311922

Workers Exploited at World Cup Construction Sites in Qatar

By PRI’s The World

Foreign workers face exploitation and death while building Qatar’s World Cup sites

This story is a part of

Human Needs

Laborers work at a construction site in Doha on June 18, 2012.

Credit:Reuters

The tiny nation of Qatar is the world’s richest country per capita, so it’s no surprise that it’s pulling out all the stops while preparing to host the 2022 World Cup.

Qatar plans to spend more than $300 billion to construct the stadiums, hotels, shopping malls and other necessary infrastructure for the tournament. But with eight years still to go until the tournament, the project has faced a wave of allegations that Qatar is abusing the foreign workers who are building the new structures.

Sue Lloyd-Roberts, a reporter for BBC’s Newsnight, went to Doha to investigate concerns raised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that as many as 1,000 workers have died since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010.

“They’re told lies about how much they’re going to earn: A number of workers I spoke to are earning less than a dollar a day on which to support families back home,” Lloyd-Roberts says. They also “sometimes have to pay their medical expenses, mobile phones and food in Qatar.”

One Bangladeshi worker described a life that seems like indentured servitude: “We wake at four in the morning, get to work at about 6 and work until 5 in the evening. It takes an hour to get back to the camp. My room there isn’t fit for humans: Six of us share and there’s no place even to sit and eat.”

So why not leave? “I don’t want to stay here but I can’t leave,” he says. “The company have my passport.”

Despite the conditions, there seems to be no lack of migrant workers ready to work in Qatar. But Lloyd-Roberts underscores that many recruits are lied to when they sign up for jobs.

“They’re routinely told they’re going to earn twice as much as they actually get,” she says. “They’re not told about the appalling conditions, about working 11-hour days, about how they have to work in temperatures up to 120 degrees Fahrenhei over the summer months.”

Workers also suffer from dehydration or malnutrition because the food allowance is not enough — yet many still send money home rather than spending it on the food they need.

Qatar contests the accusations that 1,000 workers have died, a figure that comes from research by the International Trade Union Confederation. Death certificates sometimes show the cause of death as cardiac arrest caused by heat fatigue or exhaustion, or even traffic fatalities. Qatar’s authorities don’t regard such deaths as directly related to construction.

Yet Qataris are barely aware of the rampant safety complaints and soaring work-related death toll, Lloyd-Roberts says. “You can’t escape the sound of building in Doha — it’s all around you all the time. It’s a 24-hour-a-day operation — and yet Qataris seem blissfully ignorant of it.”

Unlike the foreign workers who have built Qatar’s modern buildings, most Qataris enjoy leisurely government jobs funded by the government’s oil wealth.

“Typically, an entry-level Qatari government worker will earn about $8,000 a month. That compares with a migrant worker who’s lucky to take away $200 a month. So it’s like two different planets,” Lloyd-Roberts says. “They seem to be unaware of what’s going on around them, and those I spoke with really didn’t know much about the migrant work force or how they were treated.”

http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-12-10/foreign-workers-face-exploitation-and-death-while-building-qatars-world-cup-sites

Workers Rights Are Human Rights : Human Rights 365

Every day is human rights day. This is the meaning of this year’s theme  – Human Rights 365.

FTUC however is skeptical of the impact of this year’s theme to the government of Fiji. Fiji workers have suffered throughout the year. Redundancies, the ENI Decree, the lowering of the National Minimum Wage and other issues have plagued workers throughout the year.

We urge and demand the government to prioritise the rights of workers who are the most valuable assets of any economy and encourage all other non-governmental organisations and also human and workers’ rights advocates to keep pressuring the government to take appropriate measures in the restoration of all rights to the people.

“I call on States to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account. And I call for special protections for the human rights defenders who courageously serve our collective cause” – General Ban ki Moon, UN General Secretary

Teachers In Solidarity: The Child Our Hope

The Fiji Teachers Union is a trade union organisation that has a long proud history. In 1924, European teachers in Suva formed the Suva Methodist Teachers Association and four years later in 1928, the Lautoka Teachers Association was formed. The two organisations merged in `1930 and called themselves the Fiji Teachers Union when the planning and organising was completed in 1931.

D.A.Shah was elected the first President and R.H.Ram Narayan the General Secretary.

(Picture: Fiji Times)

“The Child Our Hope” was the motto chosen by founders of the FTU. The teachers union was originally formed to protect the rights of the teachers working as private, grant aided, scheme of cooperation and missionary teachers but union membership is open to all persons in the teaching profession.

The FTU currently has sixteen branches located all over the country.

Agni Deo Singh is the current General Secretary and also FTUC Treasurer.

MEMBERSHIP
Teachers wishing to join the union need to fill in the Membership Application Form and and Authority Form.

All civil servant/ Temporary civil servants and GIA teachers must give their authority to MOE.
The teachers at Fiji Institute of Technology give their authority to the Director.
A lapse of 13 weeks or more nullifies membership.
Any teacher needing more details is welcome to write to the Union.

For more details please visit the FTU website at www.ftu.com.fj

Empowerment for NUFCW Union Members

The National Union of Factory and Commercial Workers collaborated with UA ZENSEN on organising a workshop for members of the NUFCW Union.

The workshop was titled ” Empowering Union Members on Employment Rights At Work and the Law”.

Participants gathered at the NUFCW hall late last month for the Programme.

Trade Unions and The Promotion of OSH

Rajeshwar Singh

FPSA General Secretary/FTUC Assistant National Secretary

Jotika Sharma

FTUC Education Officer/Centre Administrator

 Representatives from the FTUC participated in an ILO-ACTRAV Symposium that was held in October. Rajeshwar Singh, FPSA General Secretary and FTUC CA Jotika Sharma represented Fiji amongst 14 trade union representatives from other countries within the Asia Pacific Region.

The theme centered around the Role of Trade Unions in the promotion of OSH in Asia Pacific.

Trends emerging in the Asia-Pacific region included the increasing precariousness of work due to outsourcing, contracting and casualisation of workers that leads to abuse of workers and deplorable working conditions.

Participants agreed that the protection of life and health at work is a worker’s right and action needed to be taken in the following areas:

  • Enhancing regional cooperation of trade unions, networking, exchange of information/experience/solidarity actions in the area of OSH including secondment and participation in training of trainers, exercised among others by means of a mailing list of participants;
  • Conducting the necessary activities to ratify/implement the ILO key Instruments on OSH: Convention No 155, its 2002 Protocol and Convention No 187:
    1.  Participate in the preparation, implementation and review of national OSH policies and programmes;
    2. Participate and contribute to the development, strengthening and review of the national OSH systems;
    3. Work to set up tri-partite National OSH Councils;
    4.  Promote social dialogue at the enterprises (OSH committee or other forms);
  • Continuing efforts to ratify and implement Convention No 176;
  • Facilitating and provide training and education on OSH for TU leaders at all levels so that they can effectively participate in bipartite and tripartite bodies and consultations, and become more active in OSH activities in the workplaces;Campaigning for Right to Decent Work – to promote workers’ safety, health and well-being, including through promotion of the integration of OSH in Decent Work Country Programmes and other programmes;
  • Promoting the shift from behavior based safety and health to prevention: identification and elimination of work hazards and risks, establishment of safe work procedures, systems of work, etc.;
  • Promoting workers’ and their representatives’ involvement in design, implementation and monitoring in the field of OSH at all levels from workplace to national;
  • Integrating sex and gender perspectives in OSH work and union policies and actions;
  • Raising awareness among management and workers on hazards and risks (including psychosocial factors) in order to focus on their prevention;
  • Improving worker-union-management communication and action on safety and health workplace issues. This includes increased worker participation in incident and injury investigations, and input into decision making;
  • Promoting universal social protection floors, and improved legislation, based on rights;
  • Promoting rehabilitation and return to work rights to injured workers;
  • Strengthening cooperation with authorities and labour and other inspectorates to ensure improved workplace compliance and lobby for strengthened and effective labour and other inspectorates.

“Trade Unions therefore call for Decent Work-led rights based approach to OSH. For this it is necessary that effective right to organize, to union recognition and to collective bargaining is guaranteed.” – Report

Fair Phone But Not Fair Play

By Eric Lee

Labourstart

Fairphone is a good idea – and a good phone.  I know because I own one.

But in the company’s attempts to build a truly ‘ethical’ phone, they’ve forgotten one thing: the workers who assemble the phone have no legal right to join or form a trade union.

I’ve written about this before (see here, for example) and today we have a chance to send a very strong message to the company that they have to accept the idea that a truly ‘fair’ phone is made by union labour.

Fairphone has an initiative this week to design cases for the phone — and they’re asking people to submit their ideas.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if thousands of trade unionists contacted them with the same message?  Here’s the message:

“This phone would be even fairer if it were made by a union member.”

I’ve already proposed this.  Will you help me?

Go here:

http://designaday.fairphone-open.com/an-even-fairer-phone/

Add your comments at the bottom of the page to support our idea.

(You will almost certainly need to create an account to join the discussion — but it’s worth it.)

If enough of us comment on this, Fairphone will have to listen.

And it’s not about getting a case made — it’s about making a case.  For workers’ rights.

We Are Union Hear Us Roar : Working Life

By Mark Phillips Editor – Working Life

On Saturday, the Denis Napthine-led Liberal-National coalition government was turfed out by Victorian voters after just one term in power. The election was won in the key southern bayside seats of Carrum, Mordialloc, Bentleigh and Frankston – seats where Victorian unions had concentrated campaigning and resources most of 2014. This is the inside story of how a grassroots union campaign helped swing the election.

IT’S less than 36 hours until Victorians vote and the Melbourne Trades Hall building is a sea of calm.

Any visitor expecting a last minute frenzy of phone calls, volunteers packing election day kits, or panicked attempts to fill rosters will be disappointed.

All the calls have been made, the crews have been assigned to their booths on polling day, and the coreflutes, posters and leaflets have all been distributed to the army of volunteers.

The dilemma is to find something meaningful to do for the volunteers rostered on election eve.

So well organised and precision perfect has the union movement’s election campaign been, that now all that is left is the waiting.

Waiting for the day when Victorians will vote to turn Denis Napthine’s Liberal-National coalition into the state’s first one term government for more than half a century.

The bluestone Trades Hall itself, one of Melbourne’s most imposing Gold Rush-era buildings on the corner of Victoria and Lygon Streets, is wrapped in about 50 metres of six-foot high red bunting carrying the message “Nap Time’s Over”.

Across the road in Lygon Street, the Liberal candidate for Melbourne, Ed Huntingford, has parked his sky blue Toyota in a futile attempt to counter the Trades Hall message.

He gets full marks for chutzpah, but will be disappointed to find a cheeky union soul has stuck flyers under his front and back windscreen wipers.

Precision planning

It has been like this for the past month as the Victorian Trades Hall Council’s state election campaign has swung into the final straight to home.

The Trades Hall campaign slipped under the mainstream media’s radar. If you did not live in one of the six targeted marginal seats, you were probably blisfully unaware there was a campaign.

But for residents in the target seats, there was no avoiding it, and the similarities – albeit on a much smaller scale – with the Your Rights At Work campaign have been remarked upon often.

But it carries profound implications for the future of grassroots political campaigning in Australia.


“Changing the government really wasn’t our number one goal,” says Luke Hilakari. “Our number one goal was to build a movement.”


As he surveys the final preparations – dressed, as always, in black jeans and boots and a t-shirt bearing the message ‘This is what a unionist looks like’ – the recently-elected Trades Hall Secretary, 33-year-old Luke Hilakari, exudes quiet confidence about the result on Saturday.

Win, lose or draw, he knows that the union campaign has made a difference.

“Right now, it looks like the conservatives are screwed,” he confides.

“This is a very big campaign. We’re trying to do something really hard. We’re trying to knock off a first term government, and that hasn’t been done in Victoria for over 60 years. To do something that big we needed a pretty big response.”

The Trades Hall campaign was launched in March, when the presence of the famed British singer-songwriter/activist Billy Bragg ensured about 1000 people spilled into the Trades Hall courtyard.

But its genesis probably goes back to when Hilakari – who earned his stripes as an organiser at United Voice – was first appointed Trades Hall industrial and campaigns officer in 2011.

Making its mark: advertising hoardings erected outside Trades Hall. All photos: ACTU/Mark Phillips

 

The campaign launch was a blast – the beer flowed freely, the sausages sizzled, Billy Bragg posed for selfies and afterwards everyone ended up carousing in the John Curtin Hotel well into the early hours.

Indeed, under Hilakari, campaigning looks like fun, which is a critical factor in attracting so many volunteers.

But also, like everything in this campaign, the launch had a serious side. Every attendee had to sign up for the campaign by providing their name, email address and phone number, and they have all been contacted and coerced into volunteering in one way or another since.

Hilakari’s enthusiasm is contagious and he could never be accused of not pulling his sleeves up and pitching in himself. He and a group from Trades Hall are at every union rally or event, and the favour has been reciprocated by affiliates, who have lent staff and resources.

Like Hilakari, most of the small campaign team at Trades Hall are young and fresh-faced.

With campaigns officer Wil Stracke, who comes from the Australian Services Union, at his side, Hilakari set out with three clear goals when he began plotting the 2014 election: changing the government, building the union movement, and improving Trades Hall’s internal campaign capacity.

“Changing the government really wasn’t our number one goal,” Hilakari says.

“Our number one goal was to build a movement and for us the election was just a vehicle to make that happen. We want to be stronger at the end of the campaign than we were at the start.”

This meant not only building the size of the movement’s activist base, but also improving how the Trades Hall communicated to them and mobilised them.

“It’s time to tell people don’t be scared, don’t apologise for being a union member,” says volunteer Sharon Hart.

Proudly union

While desperate Liberal advertising sought to target Labor leader Daniel Andrews as being a puppet of the union movement in the time-honoured manner of union bashing – even photoshopping a CFMEU hard hat onto him – the Trades Hall campaign was unashamedly badged as ‘We Are Union’.

“We are proudly union at Trades Hall and we want to pull all our unions together to be just as proud as we are,” Hilakari says.

In fact, the overly-negative anti-union advertising probably worked in reverse and damaged the Liberals more. It also served as an extra motivator for the campaign activists.

Having decided on four key issues for the campaign – jobs, health, education and emergency services – Trades Hall then identified who they wanted to persuade to vote progressive.

At an early stage, a decision was made to focus on just six target seats, all held by the Coalition by very slim margins. This was partly due to lack of resources and wish to avoid being spread too thin.

They settled on the “sandbelt” seats of Carrum, Frankston, Mordialloc and Bentleigh, leafy Monbulk in the Dandenong ranges, and the coastal seat of Bellarine south of Geelong, both of which had been deemed marginal Liberal after redistribution.

The most marginal of these was Carrum which, after redistribution, required a swing of just 0.3% to become Labor.

In the finely balanced Victorian Legislative Assembly, the Coalition only needed to lose four of those seats to lose government.

Nurse Jo, firefighter Paul and paramedic Heidi were three of the many workers who handed out at the election on Saturday.

Authenticity was the key

Lacking the financial resources to commission a large-scale electronic or print media blitz like the Your Rights At Work campaign had, the Trades Hall campaign was always going to succeed or fail on whether it could mobilise enough grassroots supporter/activists to engage on a targeted ground war.

And this is where state trades and labour councils excel.

Trades Hall set an internal target of recruiting 2000 volunteer activists to help on the campaign. They exceeded that with 2191 volunteers signed up who have done at least one activity as part of the campaign.

“Those activities had to be something physical, whether it be phone banking, doorknocking, handing out at a railway station, marching in a rally,” says Hilakari. “It wasn’t good enough for us just to click on an online petition.”

This year, union campaign volunteers have knocked on 93,000 doors, convinced about 30,000 people to sign pledges or petitions of support, held 211 street stalls and 152 train station blitzes, where they handed out 37,000 flyers.

Back at Trades Hall, 172 phone bank shifts were held, with 30,000 conversations held with union members in marginal seats. People who did not indicate how they planned to vote were contacted again – and again – often around a specific issue they had identified in an earlier conversation, such as health.

Online and social media has also been a crucial part of the campaign, and the little bit of money that was available for advertising primarily went online.

The VTHC’s Facebook page has grown from a couple of thousand to almost 9000 likes, while dozens of snappy and often hilarious videos have been made for YouTube.

In any public contact, a key worker – such as a nurse or a firefighter in uniform was paired up with an “orange person”, a volunteer so-named for their orange t-shirts. And very rarely, maybe one in 100 knocks, did they have doors slammed in their face.

“The messenger is as important as the message,” says campaigns officer Wil Stracke.

The same happened with phone calls, where a specialist worker would be assigned to talk to a voter about the issue they most cared about.

“The whole basis of our campaign is around the authenticity of our work,” says Hilakari.

“A firefighter will be believed every single time over a politician having a conversation. Same with a metalworker talking about a job in the Geelong region. Same with a paramedic, a nurse, a teacher, all these professions have been doorknocking and having direct conversations. They are the most powerful conversations and the most persuasive conversations.”

It was the same with all the campaign communications, tagged as ‘The Real Story’.

Every person who appeared on a poster, flyer, or video is a real worker and a real union member.

At times, this has caused problems: an ambulance paramedic, Louise Creasey, was hauled over the coals for being photographed in her uniform until public outrage forced management to back off.

“We’ve equipped a bunch of new people to go back to their workplaces and feel proud of being union and being part of the campaign,” says Wil Stracke.

 

The story doesn’t end here

Sharon Hart, a psychiatric nurse who lives in the seat of Frankston, has arrived at Trades Hall on Thursday afternoon to pick up her equipment for election day.

She is wearing her orange ‘We Are Union’ t-shirt under her jacket. Although a union member her entire working life, she has never been involved in something like this, and over the past few months has done phone calls and handed out leaflets as well as the election day activities.

She has found it an empowering experience.

“The unions have been decimated by the Liberals, and divided and conquered and people are running scared, and it’s time to tell people don’t be scared, don’t apologise for being a union member,” she says.

“When I’m leafletting, I’ve found most people have been polite and people are interested in knowing where you work and usually they will give you a story about their own lives.”

Although the union campaign generally stayed under the radar of the mainstream media, a sign of its success was the reaction from the Liberal Party and the government.

“The good thing is the Liberals are losing their minds,” Hilakari said just days away from the election.

“They’re complaining to the VEC [Victorian Electoral Commission], they take videos and photos [of union volunteers] and they get in their face, and the public sees that.”

On election day, the unions manned 130 booths around the state, primarily in those six target seats, and volunteers were provided with a range of paraphernalia to boost the message, including five-metre tall flags, large floor stickers, mobile billboards and digital advertising.

The campaign didn’t end with Labor’s win on Saturday.

“Our aim was not to do recruitment,” says Stracke.

“It was to politicise and engage but what we have said right from the start was once you’ve done doorknocking, you’re more likely to step up in the workplace . . . We’ve equipped a bunch of new people to go back to their unions or workplaces and feel proud of being union and being part of the campaign.”

Trades and Labor Councils in other states are looking to replicate the techniques for the New South Wales and Queensland elections next year.

And after Saturday’s triumph, there is another Liberal leader in their sights.

“Most of these state seats match up with the marginals federally,” says Hilakari.

“We have volunteers in place who are already to turn ahead. If they didn’t like Denis Napthine, they hate Tony Abbott. They just want to go him.”

http://workinglife.org.au/2014/12/01/we-are-union-hear-us-roar/

Lessons for Organising in Fiji

Emily Paulin – ITUC Organising Coordinator

The empowerment of trade union organisers on the aspects of organising and recruitment was the number one priority of a workshop that was held by FTUC in collaboration with ITUC .

ITUC Organising Coordinator Emily Paulin conducted a workshop for union organisers in the country earlier this week.

ITUC is a global union movement that defends and uplifts the work of trade unionists through its foundation.

Ms Paulin said an organiser is key to a worker’s decision to join a union.

“We have to learn how to speak their (workers) language and make them realise that they are a force to be reckoned with and they can achieve so much more for themselves when they organise,” she said.

The organiser workshop is part of a the FTUC Organiser project, funded through the ITUC.

Union organisers recruit workers and also secure union representation for them at their workplaces.

The FTUC acknowledges ITUC’s contribution towards the workshop and Ms Paulin for the facilitation of the workshop together with the FTUC staff.

$610k Overpayment : Fiji Times

By Nasik Swami

AUDITOR-General Tevita Bolanavanua’s review of overpaid salaries of the Health Ministry in 2010-2012 revealed the ministry overpaid $610,345.78, out of which only $27,018.91 or 4.4 per cent was recovered.

The review detailed in the Auditor-General’s report of 2013 outlined that because of the failure by management to keep proper records and follow up on salary overpayment, a substantial amount of salary overpayment was not recovered and resulted in loss of public funds.

The report said it was the responsibility of the accounting head of the agency to ensure salaries and wages were paid correctly, so no overpayment was made.

The audit further revealed the ministry was not able to provide the total salaries overpaid during 2013, indicating the ministry did not maintain record and monitor salaries overpaid in 2013.

The Auditor-General recommended the ministry to keep proper records of all salaries overpaid, take appropriate action to recover salaries overpaid and surcharge senior officers responsible for not following up overpayment recoveries.

In response, the management acknowledged the audit recommendations saying that internal control measures needed to be strengthened to ensure that laid down procedures/instructions are followed closely and prompt all stations in liaising with headquarters to avoid any loss to government.

The ministry said it would ensure prompt action was taken when officers owing money to Government applied for resignation, letters would be prepared and sent to them.

The report said it would ensure prompt action was taken when officers owing money resigned without settling their dues, their names were forwarded to the Data Bureau.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=287329

Women At Work Initiative : ILO

16. The objective of this initiative is to undertake a major stocktake of the status and conditions of women in the world of work, with a view to identifying innovative action that could give new impetus to the ILO’s work to fulfil its constitutional mandate to promote full and lasting gender equality and non-discrimination.
17. The ILO has a long record of achievement in the field of gender equality and non-discrimination, with the fundamental rights Conventions concerned having been ratified by the great majority of member States. Nevertheless, women remain severely disadvantaged at work in several respects, with little evidence of sustained and irreversible movement towards full equality. Overall, women’s labour market participation rates are 26 percentage points lower than those of men; the gender pay gap remains at an average of some 20 per cent; women continue to suffer from segregation in low-quality and undervalued jobs and to be over-represented in informal and non-standard forms of work, as well as unpaid family labour.
18. The initiative should improve understanding of the underlying causes of persistent inequality and what is required to overcome them, including by harnessing the opportunities offered by the processes of rapid change in the world of work. It will benefit from the significantly increased political attention now being given in many member States and internationally to the participation and place of women in labour markets. These issues are now centre stage in discussions on the United Nations post-2015 development agenda, at the G20, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and in the work by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) for the Beijing +20 process, amid clear recognition that higher women’s participation in inclusive and fair labour markets is a prerequisite of growth and development.
19. It is therefore proposed that with a view to developing a comprehensive and strategic approach towards 2019, the initiative be pursued along three tracks:
(1) policy-oriented research as the basis of an initial consideration of the situation of women at work, and the obstacles to equality and empowerment. This would include forging links with leading academics and institutions with expertise in this field, as a basis for the selection of a limited number of thematic areas for rigorous examination;
(2) consultations with constituents and relevant stakeholders with a view to identifying obstacles to equality and the innovative action needed to overcome them. This might initially involve informal as well as formal tripartite contacts, resulting in a major tripartite forum on gender equality;
(3) advocacy and support to constituents in the implementation of the action identified as key to the attainment of gender equality.

More Emphasis on Prevention : ACTRAV

Unions call for more emphasis on preventing workplace accidents and diseases

A symposium of union participants and ILO experts in Jakarta says preventative culture must become a priority.

Press release | 08 October 2014

JAKARTA(ACTRAV INFO) –Union participants at a regional symposium on occupational safety and health (1-3 October) have agreed that building a preventative safety and health culture must become a priority The symposium, organized by the ILO’s Bureau for Workers Activities (ACTRAV) in cooperation with the ILO Office in Jakarta and the Labour Administration, Labour Inspection and Occupational Safety and Health Branch, was supported by the South-South Cooperation ACTRAV/All-China Federation of Trade Union (ACFTU) Programme.

The trade union representatives from 14 countries drew up a series of recommendations to enhance regional cooperation of trade unions on OSH. They urged action by all the unions in promoting the shift from behaviour based safety and health to prevention, ratification and implementation of the key ILO standards on OSH (Convention No 155, its 2002 Protocol and Convention No 187), training and education of trade union leaders, and awareness-raising among management and workers on hazards and risks as well as preventative measures.

Other recommendations included: campaigning for the right to decent work; promoting workers’ and their representatives’ involvement in design, implementation and monitoring in the field of OSH at all levels from workplace to national; promoting rehabilitation and right to return to work for injured workers; strengthening cooperation with authorities and labour inspectorates to ensure improved workplace compliance and lobby for strengthened and effective inspectorates.

Union representatives stressed on the need for decent work-led rights based approach to health and socio-economic security of workers. To promote this, it is necessary that government take steps to ensure that workers have effective right to organize, to union recognition and to collective bargaining is guaranteed.

In addition, the participants called for the integration of OSH into the Decent Work Country Programmes.

http://www.ilo.org/actrav/media-center/pr/WCMS_312066/lang–en/index.htm

Modern Day Slavery: Biz Shift Trends

Modern-day slavery is a $150 Billion global industry and enslaves 29.8 million people world-wide… Modern-day slavery is comparable to slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries but more insidious… Slavery refers to the condition of treating another person(s) as if they are property– something to be bought, sold, traded or even destroyed. People in modern-day slavery (as in earlier times) are essentially ‘owned’ by their employers, and are controlled through variety of means including; massive recruitment debts that they are unable  to pay off, threats of harm to them or their families, intimidation, cruel punishment…

Today, modern-day slavery takes many forms, and is known by many names, but whatever term is used, the significant characteristic of all forms of modern-day slavery is that it involves either; person(s), group, company… depriving other person(s) of their freedom: freedom to leave one job for another, or freedom to leave one workplace for another, or freedom to control their own body… Today’s slaves are trapped in many venues worldwide, for example; fishing fleets and sweatshops, mines and brothels, electronics and high-tech, textile and garments … and in fields and plantations in countries across the world: Modern-day slavery is ubiquitous.

According to Joanne Bauer; for far too long businesses have ignored the use of forced labor in corporate supply chains– a situation that reflects– failure, not just of business but of society at large to confront the inconvenient truth of modern-day slavery. But, to fully understand modern-day slavery you must acknowledge that it’s a business; an illegitimate business, but still a business to make money and profit at the expense, enslavement, suffering… of humanity… According to Andrew Cockburn; there are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade… So, business must step-up, now; and tackle crisis of modern-day slavery head-on.

According to International Labor Organization (ILO) Report: The ILO estimates that modern-day slavery is $150 Billion per year business, and 20.9 million or more people are working as modern-day slaves, victims of forced labor, trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave. This figure represents a conservative estimate, given the strict methodology employed to measure this largely hidden crime. Human trafficking can also be regarded as forced labor, and so this estimate captures the full realm of human trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation or what some call ‘modern-day slavery’.

This means that around three out of every 1,000 persons worldwide are in forced labor at any given time… Women and girls represent the greater share of the total – 11.4 million (55%), as compared to 9.5 million (45%) men and boys. Adults are more affected than children – 74% (15.4 million) of victims fall in the age group of 18 years and above, whereas children aged 17 years and below represent 26% of the total (or 5.5 million child victims).

Of total number of 20.9 million in forced labor, 18.7 million (90%) are exploited in private economies, by individuals or enterprises. And out of these, 4.5 million (22%) are victims of forced sexual exploitation, and 14.2 million (68%) are victims of forced labor exploitation in economic activities, such as; agriculture, domestic work, construction, manufacturing… The remaining 2.2 million (10%) are in state-imposed forms of forced labor, for example; in prisons, or in work imposed by the state military or by rebel armed forces.

The Asia-Pacific region by far is the largest hotbed for exploited laborers, accounting for 11.7 million (56% of the global total)… Africa comes in at number two, accounting for 3.7 million (18%), while another 1.8 million (9%) of exploited laborers are in Latin America, Caribbean. The ‘Developed Economies’ and ‘European Union’ account for 1.5 million (7%), while countries of Central, South-Eastern and Eastern Europe (CSEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have 1.6 million (7%)… An estimated 600,000 exploited workers, meanwhile, are believed to be in the Middle East… These men, women and children are virtually invisible, hidden behind wall of coercion, threat, economic exploitation. 

The Global Slavery Index is a ranking of 162 countries around the world, based on a combined measure of three factors: Estimated prevalence of modern slavery by population: Measure of child marriage: Measure of human trafficking. The Index provides an estimate of the size of the modern-day slavery problem, country by country… Not all the countries in the world are represented in the Global Slavery Index. The 162 countries that are included, however, represent nearly all of the world’s 7.1 billion people…

The Global Slavery Index is the product of ‘Walk Free Foundation’, in consultation with experts from international organizations, think tanks, academic institutions… A key finding from this year’s Index is that there are an estimated 29.8 million people enslaved around the world… Also according to the Index; the prevalence of modern-day slavery is highest in the following countries: Mauritania, Haiti,  India Pakistan, Nepal, Moldova, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Gabon… However, when considered in absolute terms, countries with highest numbers of enslaved people are: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Ethiopia, Thailand, Republic of Congo , Myanmar, Bangladesh… and when taken together, these ten countries account for 76% of the total estimate of 29.8 million enslaved people… Countries with the lowest prevalence of modern slavery are: Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Iceland…

In the article Business of Modern Day Slavery by Andrew Mersmann writes: The reality that modern-day slavery is happening right now shocks most people… By a conservative estimate there are more than 27 million people enslaved right now around the world– more slaves today than at any other time in history. In the U. S., 150,000 children are exploited by the sex trade every year; it’s a supply and demand business, and as long as there is demand for less-than-minimum wage labor, and a demand for non-consensual sex trade, human beings will continue to be bought and sold… The reason it continues to grow and thrive is because human life can be cheap, disposable, for example; in 1850, a slave in the American South cost the equivalent, in today’s currency, of about $40,000. Whereas today, a slave can be had for about $90; there are millions of economically and socially vulnerable people who exploiters would consider viable stock… Because these vulnerable people are, essentially; disposable and easily replaced… then, when a slave becomes– ill, injured, outlive their usefulness and profitability or when they become a burden to the slaveholder, they are routinely dumped or killed…

The largest global industries that profit from the enslavement and forced work of people are the same as ever; agriculture, mining, garment industry… There is a fairly good chance that the cell phone you use every day, the imported fruits and vegetables you eat, perhaps the sneakers on your feet, and the diamonds you wear or covet, were brought into the commerce stream by someone who was not working of their own free will… Some are coerced by seemingly wonderful yet fraudulent job offers or promises of free transport to other countries, where once they arrive, they are kept in physical or financial bondage until they can payback exorbitant travel costs or rents or other ‘fees’ they incurred and supposedly owe a ‘boss’… The cycle is unbreakable and there is never a way out…

In the article Modern-Day Slavery: Motivating Business to Act by  Luk Van Wassenhove and Sameer Hasija write: As many as 27 million people around the world are victims of modern-day slavery, e.g.; forced labor, human trafficking… According to the ‘Trafficking in Persons Report’ by U.S. State Department: It’s estimated that up to 68% of modern-day slavery victims toil in commercial industries such as; manufacturing, construction, domestic work… The extent of the problem is chilling, e.g.;  many items in your home, office… your smart phone, clothing you wear… are at least partly produced by 21st Century slaves… Despite this, there is still no critical mass of public or business outcry and willingness to boycott the purchasing of  goods from providers that use forced, coerced, or bonded laborers…

Compared with many social and environmental issues, modern-day slavery has not seen much enthusiastic response from the business community. Although virtually all business codes of conduct prohibit any kind of forced labor, however this issue is rarely given serious attention. According to Crane and Matten; most businesses simply assume that it doesn’t affect them. Companies just aren’t looking hard enough to find connections to modern-day slavery in their supply chains, elsewhere… According to the Guardian; problem is not so much that we cannot find forced labor cases; but a new approach to enforcing forced labor laws is necessary… In the meantime, forced labor and slavery continue to flourish in global supply chains spread across continents, fueled by your insatiable desire for cheap goods and raw materials…

According to Andrew Wallis; usual narrative around slavery in supply chains of clothes, food, gadgets… is that it’s driven by the evils of big business… But if you simply point the finger at business, you risk alienating the only people with the power to eradicate slavery… Most corporations are not directly or intentionally involved in using forced labor or slaves, but in a world of complex and extended supply chains it’s easy for modern slavery to thrive, often unnoticed, at the bottom of production line. According to a few business leaders; it never really occurred to me that this was an issue, until I came across it in the supply chain, and I realized it was not an isolated incident and something had to be done…

According to Ethan B. Kapstein; modern-day slavery is a product of same political, technological, economic forces that fuel globalization. The current system offers too many incentives to criminals and outlaw states to market humans… It’s important to remember that slavery today seems to thrive in some parts of the world due to economic growth, not despite it. It’s worth remembering that in 19th Century many people argued that slavery would end ‘naturally’ once the practice was no longer economically profitable. However, there is no ‘natural’ end to slavery, and any productive policy must start by recognizing that fact….

The reality of modern-day slavery is that millions of people are trapped and denied freedom and lives of dignity, and bound only to serve and profit the criminals that control them… According to Aidan McQuade; many people continue to believe the myth that slavery is a thing of the past… other people, naively accept the idea that modern-day slavery is some ‘regrettably inevitable’ aspect of international business in a global economy… The routine use of slavery in many of the supply chains will remain the case until leaders from business and politics refuse to tolerate this situation any further and enforce the laws against it.

http://bizshifts-trends.com/2014/10/29/modern-day-slavery-150-billion-global-industry-30-million-servitude-business-must-end-forced-labor-supply-chains/

ILO Waits on Fiji: Fiji Times

By Shalveen Chand

THE International Labour Organization’s Direct Contact Mission has expressed strong hope the Government will soon sign the Tripartite MOU on the future of labour relations in Fiji.

This was the comment of the mission in its report to the ILO.

The mission visited Fiji in October to investigate complaints by trade unions that certain decrees had violated their freedom of association.

After holding discussions with the Government, employers and workers representatives, the International Labour Organizations Direct Contact Mission had drafted the MOU so there was a consensual approach towards maintaining labour rights.

Employers and workers representatives subsequently signed the MoU however, Government is yet to.

In its report, the mission said it remains convinced that the tripartite MOU was the consensual way forward and would serve all interests in the country to build constructive social dialogue based upon trust and respect.

According to the MOU, the election provided a fresh start for labour laws and dialogues. The MOU states that the parties pledge their efforts to reinvigorate labour relations through their pursuit of frank and sincere bipartite and tripartite dialogue in a spirit of genuine respect and good faith.

The MOU said the parties recognised the Relations Promulgation 2007 as a positive and constructive framework in which the labour management co-operation leading to enhanced productivity and collective bargaining for the improvement of workers terms and conditions of employments could be effectively exercised.

The MOU states the parties agree that it can set a level playing field for fair competition across industries and decent work for all workers and employees.

The question as to why Fiji did not sign the MOU has been emailed to Mr Konrote and it remains unanswered.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=286151

Salaries Overpaid by Ministry: Fiji Times

By Nasik Swami

AN audit of the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests by the Auditor-General in 2012 revealed that the ministry continued to pay remunerations to officers who had either resigned or retired.

The Auditor-General’s report noted that $13,341 was paid by the ministry to the officers resulting in the overpayment of salaries.

The report further stated that the overpayments of salaries resulted from the failure of the ministry to submit salary change advice on time to the Ministry of Finance.

“In addition, ineffective payroll reconciliation process also contributed to the overpayments of salaries,” the report noted.

In the report, the Auditor-General recommended the ministry address the delay in addressing salary change advice by effectively communicating and co-ordinating matters affecting payroll in a timely manner between the administration/stations and the accounts section.

The Auditor-General further recommended the ministry that where an overpayment was substantial, legal proceeding was an avenue that can be considered if other arrangements for recovery are not possible.

The audit also recommended the ministry strengthen its salary reconciliation process to minimise or avoid irregularities in the payments of salaries and wages and also assist in early detection of irregularities for immediate action.

In response, the ministry noted the findings as a great concern and said it was working on improvements to internal processes and internal communication in its corporate service division to avoid instance of overpayments to its retirees and resigning workers.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=285830

FEO Releases Guidelines for Union Elections

The Fijian Elections Office last week released guidelines for union elections. The guidelines are posted on their website http://www.electionsfiji.gov.fj/trade-union-elections/

 

Trade Union Elections

In accordance with section 154 of the Electoral Decree, 2014, the Fijian Elections Office [FEO] will implement the following guidelines to organize Trade Union elections. The guidelines stated below specify the minimum standards that FEO will uphold in every Trade Union election to enhance transparency and ensure accountability.

All elections will be organized in accordance with the rules of the organization, however the standards below will be incorporated into the process.

 Notice of intention to hold elections

The Trade Union will notify FEO of the intention to organize an election at least six (6) weeks prior to the date fixed for the holding of such elections. The notification should contain the following information:

1.     Total number of registered members of the Trade Union who are entitled to vote,

2.     Positions that will be contested for,

3.     Copy of the registered Constitution of the Union and all amendments registered thereafter which contains specifics on the type of electoral system to be used, the nomination criteria and all other details on the election rules,

4.     Contact details of secretariat should FEO require more information.

The Trade Union may also notify FEO of the intention to organize the election and then work with FEO to finalize the timeline for election.

Download Notice of Intention

 Notice of Trade Union Election

Upon receipt of notice from the Trade Union, FEO will publish in the gazette and daily newspapers, a Notice of the Trade Union Election at least 4 weeks prior to the Election or earlier if prescribed by the rules of the Union. Such notice will contain:

1.     List of offices for which nominations are being sought

2.     List of places where nomination forms may be obtained

3.     Details about the date, time and place(s) where nominations may be filed together with conditions, if any, as per the rules of the Trade Union,

4.     Final date and time for withdrawal of nominations

5.     Total number of members who are eligible to vote in the election(s)

6.     Date, times and locations where voting is to take place.

 

 Nominations

The FEO will designate places for the filing of nominations and also prescribe the time lines and conditions associated with nominations. All nominations will be assessed against the Trade Union rules of eligibility. Following the verification of the nominations, FEO will publish the list of candidates for the election. The secretariat of the Trade Union will circulate the list to all members as far as practicable.

Ballot Papers

The FEO will prepare the ballot paper as per the requirements of the election. Ballot papers will be printed in sufficient quantities in accordance with the total number of voters plus an additional number to be determined by the Supervisor of Elections for contingencies.

List of Voters

The Secretariat of the Trade Union should forward to the FEO a list of eligible members who are entitled to vote in the Election (as per the rules and requirements of the Union) within one (1) week of the Notice of Intention to hold Trade Union Election. This list should contain the full name, address, occupation, name of employer and location.

The list should also contain a list of members who do not qualify to vote with exact reasons. Members who are not qualified to vote, may within five (5) days before Nominations begin, fulfil the necessary requirements to be registered on the Roll of Voters.

The List of Voters will be made available to the Candidates on the payment of a minimal fee through the Secretariat of the Union and must be made available to every candidate upon request.

Voting

Polling on the day of election(s) will be officiated by FEO officials at the locations advertised in the Notice of Trade Union Election. Candidates are permitted to organize agents to be present during voting as observers.

Voting will be by Secret Ballot and only authorized persons are permitted to remain inside a Voting Place.

Counting

Unless Polling is to be conducted on a number of days, counting will be carried out at the location where voting takes place and results from that Voting Place will be announced following the Count.

Final Results

Following the conclusion of the Count, the FEO will announce the results for each candidate. FEO will also announce the final list of new office bearers.

Thereafter, FEO will publish a notice in the Gazette and daily newspaper containing the following information:

1.     Total number of persons on the voter list who were eligible to vote

2.     Total number of ballot papers issued

3.     Total number of votes cast

4.     Total number of invalid votes

5.     Final Results of the Election for each candidate

6.     Final List of elected Office bearers and term

Final Report

The FEO will also prepare a final report on the election and forward a copy to the Registrar of Trade Unions and the Union Secretariat.

Calls for Constitutional Review by UN:Fiji Times

By Shalveen Chand

THE United Nations Human Rights Council has recommended that Fiji consider establishing a constitutional commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the Constitution.

The council suggests that this will thereby ensure it is reflective of the will and aspirations of the citizens of Fiji, seeing that this might help to bring about a more stable political structure.

The Fiji team made a presentation to the UNHRC last week and after discussion with the group led by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, recommendations were made and Fiji was told to provide an update by March next year.

At the UN meet, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji accepted 98 out of 137 recommendations made by the Human Rights Review Council.

Fiji told the council that the for the remaining 39 recommendations it was necessary to either consult with the relevant independent institutions, or to refer them to relevant government agencies for input. Out of the 98 accepted recommendations Fiji is already compliant with 12.

It was resolved that the 39 recommendations would be examined by Fiji which would provide responses in due time, but no later than the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.

They have recommended that Fiji repeal the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 in order to end intimidation and harassment of those that express criticism of the State.

Member countries said there was a need to change the climate of fear and self-censorship and to ensure that no one was arbitrarily arrested and detained for exercising their rights.

It was also recommended that the legislative and constitutional framework be amended to maintain the separation of powers and cease any executive interference with the independence of the judiciary and lawyers and ensure the processes governing the discipline of lawyers and judges are free from political interference

The Council said Fiji could ensure respect for freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association by amending aspects of decrees such as the Public Order Act Amendment Decree, the Political Parties Decree and the Media Industry Development Decree that unduly restricted fundamental freedoms.

It was suggested Fiji could create and maintain an enabling environment for civil society actors to freely associate, by amending relevant laws and ensuring they are not invoked to curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

At the UN meet, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji accepted 98 out of 137 recommendations made by the Human Rights Review Council.

Fiji told the council that the for the remaining 39 recommendations it was necessary to either consult with the relevant independent institutions, or to refer them to relevant government agencies for input. Out of the 98 accepted recommendations Fiji is already compliant with 12.

It was resolved that the 39 recommendations would be examined by Fiji which would provide responses in due time, but no later than the 28th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.

They have recommended that Fiji repeal the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 in order to end intimidation and harassment of those who express criticism of the State.

Member countries said there was a need to change the climate of fear and self-censorship and to ensure no one was arbitrarily arrested and detained for exercising their rights.

It was also recommended that the legislative and constitutional framework be amended to maintain the separation of powers and cease any executive interference with the independence of the judiciary and lawyers and ensure the processes governing the discipline of lawyers and judges were free from political interference

The council said Fiji could ensure respect for freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association by amending aspects of decrees such as the Public Order Act Amendment Decree, the Political Parties Decree and the Media Industry Development Decree that unduly restricted fundamental freedoms.

It was suggested Fiji could create and maintain an enabling environment for civil society actors to freely associate, by amending relevant laws and ensuring they are not invoked to curtail the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=285143

HRW Calls for Pressure on Fiji: Fiji Times

By Nasik Swami

THE New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on its member states to apply pressure on the Fijian Government during its UN human rights review underway in Geneva.

The HRW says applying pressure on the Government will contribute towards ending ill-treatment in detention, cease harassment and arbitrary arrest of its citizens.

The international body told the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review that it needs to inform the Fijian Government to guarantee protection of human rights defenders, respect freedom of expression and order investigations into allegations of security forces abuses.

“The UPR review in Geneva is a unique occasion to test whether the new Fiji Government can seriously address its human rights problems,” HRW said.

It said the Constitution granted “absolute and unconditional immunity” to all members of public services and security forces, as well as public office holders, for actions taken during the 2006 coup d’état until the formation of the new Parliament.

The HRW claimed that during its 2009 UPR review, Fiji accepted recommendations to take active measures to investigate and prosecute those responsible for acts of torture and ill-treatment, and put an end to immunity for members of the military and police force.

“There is little evidence to suggest that Fiji has implemented these recommendations.

“For example, the Fiji Government took no action when a video surfaced in March 2013 depicting what appears to be Fijian soldiers torturing and beating two men.

“When asked whether there would be an investigation, then-Commodore Bainimarama responded that he would stick by his men and officials implicated in the incident.”

The HRW urged member states to make concrete, time-bound recommendations to the Government of Fiji to respect basic civil and political rights.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=284692

FSGWU To Go Ahead With Ballots: Fiji Times

By Shalveen Chand

Bro. Mikaele Mataka at a 2006 union workshop with another workshop attendant. (Picture: Fiji Times)

THE Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union will go ahead with its annual conference where office bearers will be elected despite requests by the Fijian Elections Office to defer the meet.

FSGWU acting general secretary Mikaele Mataka said they had provided the elections office with information concerning the upcoming ballots.

Labour Minister Jioji Konrote had said in Parliament that all union elections would be facilitated by the elections office to ensure transparency and accountability.

“They have asked us to defer the election but haven’t given us a reason as to why,” Mr Mataka said.

“They wanted the names of the financial members who will be voting and we have provided them with that also,” Mr Mataka said.

“I have been directed by the executive of the union to continue with preparatory work and I have been doing that to ensure that we have our meeting on November 22.

“I have been corresponding with the FEO and they are yet to inform us on how they plan to carry out the election of office bearers.

Mr Mataka said the elections office would facilitate the voting process to ensure transparency and accountability.

“Other than that, I don’t see what role will they have in the election and I think all information they need has been given to them,” he added.

Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem, in response to questions sent to him regarding unions and elections, said the elections office would be making an announcement on this in November.

The FSGWU meeting is scheduled for November 22 at the Lautoka Hotel and nominations for office bearers closes this weekend.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=284626

No Quotations on $72,000 Used: FBC

By Edwin Nand

The 2013 Auditor General’s report states there are numerous breaches of procurement and payments procedures in the Agriculture Ministry in 2013.

From a sample selected for audit, it was found that payment vouchers worth more than $264,000 have been misplaced.

These include a total of $46,000 paid to Tanoa Hotel, $28,000 for Penaia Contractors, Viti Vanua Holdings $37,500 and $27,000 to Bulileka Hire Services.
Four payment I.D’s for the Permanent Secretary Agriculture worth $23,346 – were recorded however there are no payment vouchers.

The Ministry of Agriculture spent $72,794 without any competitive quotations being obtained, buying 3 chainsaws, 4,200kgs of ginger seeds and other expenses.

$11,483 was spent on a cattle trough and $12,000 for stainless steel coconut scrapper.

The Audit report says there was a considerable level of non-compliance with finance instructions in 2013.

http://www.fbc.com.fj/fiji/24073/72k-spent-without-quotations

Fiji to Report on Human Rights Laws: FBC

By FBC News

Fiji’s Human Rights laws will be reviewed during the 20th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.

Fiji is among 14 countries that are scheduled to have their human rights records examined under this mechanism.

The UN’s office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says reviewing of Fiji’s Human Rights laws is scheduled for Wednesday.

Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has left for Geneva to represent the government at the session.

Sayed-Khaiyum will respond to questions based on the shadow Human Rights report that will be submitted by non-government organisations.

The session will look at several issues including promoting women’s rights, the democratic process and the recent elections, freedom of religion and expression, rights to housing and sanitation, the administration of justice and the role of the Human Rights Commission.

Representatives from Japan, Namibia and Russia will serve as Rapporteurs for the review of Fiji.

Human Rights Watch, which is among those who’ve made submissions, says the review is a test of whether the new Fiji government can seriously address its human rights proble

http://www.fbc.com.fj/fiji/24015/un-to-review-fiji%E2%80%99s-human-rights-laws-

Civil Service Reforms Could Mean Job Losses: FBC

Public Service Minister – Aiyaz Sayed-Kahiyum says they need to fix the fundamental structure of the civil service – an important component of the economy that’s been lagging behind.

Speaking on FBC TV’s 4 the record program on Sunday Sayed-Khaiyum says an external party with similar expertise will be invited to carry out the comprehensive reform.

He says the outcome of the review will determine if there will be job losses – but one thing’s for certain, civil servants are in for a major overhaul

“We not here to slash and burn, we here to essentially get the fundamentals right and we will work through that process with all the civil servants.”

Sayed-Kahiyum is confident the study will be complete, and all its findings implemented, within one year.

The civil service will retain skilled staff and re-direct them, to front line services if need be.

Poor Records of Spending: Fiji Times

By Shalveen Chand

THE Prime Minister’s Office in 2013 was found to have an unreconciled variance of $1.06million between the Financial Management and Information System general ledger Trust Cash at Bank account and their bank reconciliation balance.

This was stated in the Auditor-General’s report 2013 tabled in Parliament on Friday and released yesterday.

Auditor-General Tevita Bolanavanua noted that other anomalies in the books of the Prime Minister’s Office included the non-receipting of direct deposits and overstatement of interest earned.

He said the nature of payments in the 2013 trust fund statement of receipts and payment were also not disclosed appropriately to ensure the disclosure consistency and comparability with the 2012 figures.

Poor reconciliation, non-recording of bank charges, interest and non submission of annual acquittal reports to the donor were some of the administrative and accounting anomalies in the Prime Minister’s Office.

For the Public Service Commission for a particular account, accounts receivables had a debit balance of $10.7million.

It was noted that no reconciliation was provided so the audit could not substantiate the correctness of the balance.

There were recommendations made by Mr Bolanavanua to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Public Service Commission.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=283770

Government Overspending : Fiji Times

By Siteri Sauvakacolo

THREE government ministries and two government departments overspent their budgeted appropriation, according to the 2009 Auditor-General’s Report.

These were the Fiji Police Force, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Women and Social Welfare, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Department of Information.

Auditor-General Tevita Bolanavanua said the reason for the over-expenditures in 2009 were mainly because of the over-spending on salaries and allowances.

The report – that was released on Monday noted that public debt in 2009 totalled $3.1 billion and comprised domestic loans $2.5 billion or 80 per cent of the total debt while overseas loans accounted for $527.2 million or 17 per cent and treasury bills at $97.7 million or 3 per cent.

In the same year, Government borrowings totalled $503 million of which $404.2 million or 80 per cent was through domestic bonds, $97.7 million or 19 per cent treasury bills and $1.1 million or 0.2 per cent in overseas loans.

According to the report, the total expenditures for 2009 amounting to $1.9 billion had increased by $230.9m or 14 per cent from 2008 and recorded an overall savings of $133.5m compared with a savings of $100.2m in 2008.

The overall savings arose from savings in established staff by $2.8 million, wage-earners by $0.4m, travel and communications by $1.9m, maintenance and operations by $8.7m, purchase of goods and services by $0.4m, operating grants and transfers by $7.9m,

pensions and gratuities by $1.5m and charges on account on public debt by $59.9m and VAT by $10.1m.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=283773

RFMF’s $20 million “for coup” : Fiji Times

By Siteri Sauvakacolo

IN 2007, the RFMF’s total expenditure for the purchase of various military stores and camp equipment surpassed $21m — incurring an over-expenditure total of $20,183,924.

However, the RFMF said the expenses incurred were “essential” for the events of December 5, 2006.

This was highlighted in the Auditor-General’s 2007 report.

They were allocated an initial budget of $964,928 for the purchase of equipment that year.

“Standard Government procurement procedures such as obtaining approval from the Major Tenders Board were not complied with,” it reported.

“However, the RFMF later sought retrospective approval from the Minister for Finance through a Cabinet IGCP (07) 291 for the over-expenditure and waiver of approval by the Major Tenders Boards.

“A physical verification of the items purchased revealed that most have not been used and were lying idle in the Store Room and items such as Jungle Hats and Anti Ballistic Glasses were not needed in 2007 because there were stock left from previous years or not used during the year.”

The Auditor-General recommended that excessive purchasing of goods and services not budgeted for should be avoided. The Auditor-General did not receive comment from the RFMF management on this issue.

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=283771

Outrageous Salaries While Poor Suffer

(People living under the poverty line in squatter settlements. Picture: spayfiji)

While 30 % of Fiji’s population suffer in poverty, the government sees it fit to reward itself with ridiculously extravagant pay packages.

The extravagant packages for the PM and his Ministers were gazetted in the Parliamentary Renumerations Decree on Friday 3rd October.

The FTUC seeks to remind government of the many poor people in the country, the exploitation of labour for a small price, the lowest National Minimum Wage ever to be established.

It is a disappointment that the Bainimarama-led government sees it fit to reward its ministers with these salaries that begin from  a staggering $328, 750 for the man himself. All this at a time when Fijians struggle to afford the basic necessities.

We implore the Government to put the needs of the people first. This self-serving action is disgusting and the people of Fiji has now seen for themselves what the government is really all about.

President: non-taxable salary of $130,000.
Prime Minister: total package of $328,750
Finance Minister: $235,000
Health, Education, Infrastructure and Transport Ministers: $200,000
Other ministers: $185,000
Assistant ministers: $90,000
Speaker: $150,000.
Leader of the Opposition: $120,000.
All other MPs: $50,000.

ILO Mission Meets with FTUC

Representatives  from the Fiji Trades Union Congress grabbed the opportunity to highlight issues faced by unions in Fiji during a meeting with the ILO Contacts Mission in Suva yesterday.

Decrees, Regulations set up by the government directly affecting unions were also discussed.

The FTUC hopes that the ILO Contacts Mission team will see it fit to take the necessary actions against the repressive legislations and include the issues highlighted in its Report to the Governing Body.

The FTUC demands that this government recognizes and upholds the ILO principles for the benefit of our local workers.

The Mission was sent to Fiji to probe labour rights violations that was highlighted by former FTUC National Secretary, Felix Anthony.

The team was kicked out by the Bainimarama-led government in 2012.

World Day for Decent Work : ITUC

October 7 – World Day for Decent Work 2014: Justice for Workers – Climate Justice

IThe world is on an unsustainable path. Vast numbers of working people face insecurity in their jobs and the highest levels of inequality in living memory. One half of working families have experienced unemployment or reduced working hours in the past two years, while 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty.

Basic rights to union representation and collective bargaining are under threat in many countries and under direct attack in others. Employers are even trying to undermine the right to strike, by challenging decades of legal recognition for this most fundamental right at the ILO.
Too many governments are failing to protect working people today, and failing to build a sustainable future for the generations to come. Catastrophic weather events caused by climate change are already ruining lives and livelihoods, yet political leaders have still to find the courage to make a global climate agreement. There are no jobs on a dead planet, but when governments do act to reduce carbon pollution and equip the communities and industries for the climate challenges to come, many more jobs will be created.

The dominant global economic model is destroying jobs and the planet. This weakens democracy and undermines justice for all. The world’s trade unions are the most potent force to defend democracy and fight for justice and a sustainable future. On October 7 – the World Day for Decent Work, unions across the planet will be holding rallies, workplace activities, public actions and a multitude of other events, in support of justice for workers and climate justice.

Together we can build workers’ power, organising and mobilising to hold politicians and business to account, and to transform the failing economic system of today to one that delivers prosperity for all on a sustainable planet.

Sharan Burrow
General Secretary
ITUC

ILO Contacts Mission : ITUC

By INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION

Sharan Burrow : ITUC General Secretary

Fiji to Finally Allow Visit by ILO Mission

Brussels, 6 October 2014 (ITUC OnLine): Fiji’s Commodore Frank Bainimarama, reinstalled as Prime Minister following a deeply flawed election last month, is set to allow an ILO mission into the country to probe labour rights violations.  A 2012 ILO mission was expelled from the country when its members refused to allow the authorities to dictate how it would conduct its investigation.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “A last-minute concession from Fiji’s military rulers to agree to an ILO mission is intended to stop the UN body launching a Commission of Inquiry in November.  The ‘deepening authoritarianism’, of which the ILO forewarned, is still very much the order of the day in Fiji, and we can expect that a mission will find abundant evidence of this.  Fiji needs to restore internationally recognised labour standards in full if it is to avoid an ILO Commission of Inquiry.”

Commodore Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 military coup, and has repeatedly cracked down on workers and their unions, sweeping away fundamental rights through executive decrees which cannot be challenged in the courts.  The Essential National Industries Decree, for example, was used to annul existing collective agreements and force unions to rerun elections for new leadership that required the approval of the Prime Minister. The government also mobilised the military to threaten and harass workers, and has resorted to imprisoning and beating union leaders.

The deeply flawed September 2014 election was marred by the complete absence of a free media, intimidation by public officials and extreme campaign restrictions placed on civil society organisations, backed up by stiff criminal sanctions.

The ITUC represents 176 million workers in 161 countries and territories and has 324 national affiliates.

Support Hong Kong Unions’ Strike for Democracy

(Picture: talkingunion)

The FTUC calls on affiliates and members to participate in the online campaign to help Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions’ strike for democracy.

The International Trade Union Confederation’s General Secretary, Sharan Burrows said, “China’s plan to allow a few billionaires to choose who will rule Hong Kong  is anti-democratic and in breach of China’s 1997 undertakings on Hong Kong’s future.  It will entrench a corrupt feudal system where oligarchs have all the power and working people are squeezed between prohibitive living costs and the naked greed of a tiny and all-powerful elite.  We call on the Chinese authorities to open discussions with Hong Kong citizens on how to respect the democratic right of the people of Hong Kong to decide who can be voted into office.”

Please follow the link below to sign up your organisation for Hong Kong’s please for democracy.

http://www.iuf.org/cgi-bin/campaigns/show_campaign.cgi?c=915

Fiji Workers and the ILO Report on Pacific SIDS

(Picture: ILO)

Around one in five workers in Fiji still earn too little to escape the US$2 per day poverty. Two in five live just above the poverty line and remain highly vulnerable to falling back into poverty. These are findings revealed in the ILO Report on Decent Work and Social Justice in Pacific Small Island Developing States.

The FTUC has continuously voiced its concern over the treatment of workers in the country, particularly regarding the National Minimum Wage amongst other issues.

The report further declares that the Pacific region suffers from high unemployment and underemployment, and particularly amongst young men and women who form a significant part of the population.

The political upheavals of the past have also contributed to the lack of growth of export industries in Fiji, PNG and the Solomon Islands.

The FTUC believes that the Report is an accurate representation of the issues faced by workers in the country and hopes that the newly “elected” government will through democratic processes championed by the workers movement put a stop to the exploitation of Fiji’s working population.

The Report is available on Decent Work and Social Justice in Pacific SIDS

Thunderclap for World Day for Decent Work

The FTUC encourages all to be a part of the Thunderclap campaign launched by IndustriALL Global Union.

The Thunderclap campaign is to help raise awareness of the problems of precarious work. The campaign allows a single message from any trade union movement or organisation to share a message flash-mob style that will be shared to all friends and networks on all social networking sites on October 7, the World Day for Decent Work.

Precarious workers according to ILO are workers who fill permanent job needs but are denied permanent job rights.

Please click on the following link to support this campaign : https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/16472-stop-precarious-work

Vote Buying : Fiji Times

By Felix Chaudhary

THE Fiji Trades Union Congress says attempts by the government to sway workers votes by paying out bonuses two weeks before election will not work.

Acting national secretary Rajeshwar Singh said the campaign strategy used by Attorney-General and FijiFirst general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was an obvious ploy to win votes.

“If he thinks that workers are dumb and do not know his motive then he is sadly mistaken,” Mr Singh said.

“They know that a bonus is being paid to them two weeks before elections.

“The trend is there for all to see that pay rises and bonuses are paid to employees in Tropik Woods, Fiji Sugar Corporation, Fiji Water Authority, Lautoka City Council and other public enterprises for political ends.

“The FTUC has a long and proud history spanning decades representing workers’ interests in Fiji.

“It has over the years fought to increase workers’ wages, reinstate workers’ rights and fight against the injustices of employers’ treatment of its members.

“What has the regime achieved so far for workers for the past eight years apart from trampling on their very rights?

“It has forced the placement of thousands of workers under the Essential National Industries Decree and made every effort to add fear and intimidation to decimate trade unions.”