Sunday, August 07, 2011

Fiji – Our neighbourhood – Our Concern

Posted on NZ Labour Party Website

by Darien Fenton  - 07 August, 2011

Sometimes I wonder if New Zealanders who continue to visit Fiji for its sun and resorts really understand how serious the situation is, especially when it comes to human and workers’ rights. Perhaps if they did, they might not be so keen to visit.

In the past months, the regime has turned its guns on free trade unions and it’s going from bad to worse. This week the President of Fiji’s Trades Union Congress, Daniel Urai was arrested for holding an “unauthorised” union meeting and a new decree placing further restrictions on workers’ rights was introduced. This comes after the recent arrest of the internationally respected Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, Felix Anthony, who recently visited New Zealand to talk with unions about the situation in Fiji. There are mounting concerns he will be arrested again shortly.

The decree adopted this week is called “Essential National Industries Employment Decree” which appears to:
  • Ban all strikes, slowdowns, sick actions or any action that may negatively impact on
    the employer
  • Ban unions from representing workers in negotiating collective bargaining outcomes
  • Void all current collective agreements within 60 days
  • Provide that after 60 days period any strike or lockout may take place only with the written authority of the Minister
  • Prohibit overtime payments, including for weekend work, work on days off, and work on public holidays unless agreed to by the employer
  • Cancel all current Wages Council Orders regarding minimum terms and conditions of work in designated industries
  • Require that all members, office bearers, officers and executives of the union be employees of the designated company.

The decree applies to all Government owned industries and any other that the Minister may designate. Individuals who break the decree can be fined $50,000 and five years imprisonment. Unions can be fined $100,000.

This is another attempt by the military regime to suppress dissenting views, using intimidation tactics designed to instill fear in workers and unions.

And in a bizarre twist, KFC has closed its three stores in Fiji, claiming Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s regime has blocked imports of ingredients until the secret recipe was revealed.

I think the tourists will survive the demise of KFC in Fiji, but the attack on workers’ and human rights in our own Pacific neighbourhood is something we should all be very worried about.

I hope our government will see it that way and let the regime know that this is unacceptable to New Zealand.
And if you are planning to visit Fiji, I don’t begrudge you a nice holiday, but you do need to go with your eyes wide open.


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