Thursday, June 30, 2011

Unions Now Targeted by Fiji Dictatorship

Australia Network News - 30 June 2011


Fiji looks at trade union ban

The Fijian military regime has drawn up plans to amend union laws that would make union representation more difficult for workers in Fiji's national industries.

The Employment Relations Amendment Decree 2011 is yet to be signed by President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. It is directed at unions, workers and their representatives in Fiji's sugar and airline industries.

The decree states: "Upon commencement of this decree, any union registered under the Employment Relations and Promulgation 2007 which represents workers employed by Critical Corporations must re-register as a representative pursuant to this Decree. 'Critical'" Any and all office-bearers, officers, representatives, executives and members of a union which represents workers employed by Critical Corporations must, at all times, be employees of the Critical Corporation they represent." 

The decree goes on to state that if a union leader is no longer employed by that company, they are not allowed to represent its workers. Any person who fails to comply with the decree could be fined up to $50,000 or face up to five years in jail.

Radio Australia's Pacific Beat approached Fiji's Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum seeking confirmation the decree would be enacted. But Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said he would not comment on the decree. "I don't comment on conjectures or innuendos or decrees that who knows whoever's written it," he said. 

Fiji Islands' Council of Trade Unions general secretary, Attar Singh, says if the proposed decree is true it could have serious implications for unions and their representatives. "From the stories we hear, the employees from certain industries - industries which are identified as critical - only employees of those industries will be eligible to become union officials," he said. "Outsiders and professional unionists will not be entitled to seek election. It is also rumoured that it might mean the level of union activity will also be quite restricted."So what that will effectively mean that unions will no longer be effective in getting out there towards their members. And that of course will make union activity quite restrictive in the workplace and also at a national level. 

"The Australian Council of Trade Unions' International Officer Grant Belchamber has seen the decree and says it is just one among many the ACTU is concerned about. "We've seen four or five decrees since the military government abrogated the Fiji constitution," he said.

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