Thursday, August 11, 2011

Overseas Unions Show Solidarity with Fiji Counterpart

11 August 2011

Coup Four Point Five has reported support from overseas trade union movement for their Fiji counterpart following the promulgation of repressive decrees against the union movement in Fiji. This follows on the visit to Fiji of ILO executives to discuss with Fiji's illegal PM and officials the intention behind the decree and its impact on union members.

Let us hope that the ILO visit will ram home to the illegal regime that it just can't go about depriving citizens of their lawful right to belong to unions and for the unions to go about representing their members, together with the ability to voice opposition when repressive and draconian measures are targeted at unions.

Below are copies of posts from Coup Four Point Five today

Two more powerful organisations show support for Fiji unions

STRENGTH IN GLOBAL NUMBERS: PSI affiliate, Service Employees International Union, leads Los Angeles County Employees in 2009. 

More good news for Fiji - two more powerful international labour organisations are putting their might behind the country's beleaguered trade unions and their officials. 

The first is the Public Services International (PSI), which has penned a strong letter to the illegal regime logging its concern about the gazetting of the new Essential Industries Decree and the planned amendment of the Public Service Act.

The letter by PSI's general secretary, Peter Waldorff, also tackles Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum's controversial plan to scrap the check-off system for the sector and misinformation about the Civil Service Act.

A letter dated August the 4th to the self-appointed prime minister Fank Bainimarama says: "PSI regards this matter as the latest in a series of vindictive attacks on public sector unions by the interim administration."

PSI is a global union federation of public sector trade unions and has 620 affiliated unions in 160 countries, representing 20 million workers. It is officially recognised as an non-government organisation for the public sector in the International Labour Organisation, and has consultative status with the United Nations ECOSO and observer status with the other UN bodies such as the UNCTAD and UNESCO.

The organisation has led successful campaigns against major corporates including the mining giant, Rio Tinto, carrying out simultaneous industrial action in London and Melbourne (see pictures to the right of page).

The other movement to come behind Fiji's trade union movement is the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), another powerful global union federation of trade unions. ICEM represents 467 industrial trade unions in 132 countries and has a membership of more than 20 million workers.

The organization, which is based in Geneva,  represents workers employed in a wide range of industries, including energy, mining chemicals, pulp and paper and many others.

ICEM's strongly worded letter to Fiji's illegal prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, condemns the arrest of FTUC president, Daniel Urai, and says: " The harassment and intimidation of trade Unionists is truly unacceptable to ICEM affiliates around the world."

The letter, which is signed by general secretary Manfred Warda, warns the military dictatorship to back off. Quote: "On behalf of 20 million members in 132 countries ... I send you notice that we will  mobilize all our resources to condemn these vicious attacks from your government."

ICEM Letter to Bainimarama

Editor's Note: Technical glitch with the PSI letter but we will publish it as soon as possible 

International Union mounts massive campaign against Bainimarama regime

Sharan Burrow

The International Trade Union Confederation is investigating if legal action can be taken against the military dictatorship for failing to adhere to the principles and rights of the International Labour Organisation.

As a member of the ILO, the Fiji regime has a commitment, through the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, to respect, promote and realise the fundamental rights set out in the organisation’s core conventions.

Moves to limit fundamental workers’ rights in Fiji are also at odds with commitments made under the Cotonou Agreement which defines the European Union’s relations with 79 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, including Fiji.

The General Secretary of the ITUC, Sharan Burrow, told Coupfourpointfive yesterday the Essential National Industries Employment Decree is a severe blow to workers rights.

"We think that the decree is an affront to the fundamental principles and rights to which Fiji is required to adhere to as a member of the ILO.  

"The decree, in many important Fijian industries, essentially eliminates the right of freedom of association, collective bargaining and to strike," she said.

Ms Burrow said the ITUC has taken a number of actions to stand up for the workers of Fiji.

"We called upon the prime minister directly to repeal the law, filed a memo on the law with the ILO and, on the basis of that law and the arrests, and was able to mobilize and ILO delegation to Fiji.  

"We are also coordinating an international campaign against the government of Fiji which has as its aim the restoration of fundamental rights in Fiji, including repeal of that and other recent decrees." 

Ms Burrow said the ITUC is activating all of the ILO mechanisms it can to put pressure on the regime.

"We are also seeking to generate substantial political and economic pressure on the regime to reverse course and restore basic rights, including labor rights.  We are also investigating to find other points of leverage using domestic and international law."

Sayed Khaiyum to use the ILO meeting to 'clarify' the truth

Fiji's illegal Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum says he is looking forward to meeting the ILO delegation arriving this afternoon because he wants to clarify the truth.

The ILO is sending a group to Fiji following the deteriorating trade union rights situation, especially with the recent Decree which curbs workers rights and makes trade unions defunct.

Sayed Khaiyum says there is a lot of misinformation being spread by several quarters, Fiji trade unionists and international organisations and he wants to meet the ILO delegation to clarify the "misinformation that has been spread and told to the international community by individuals who have got self interest".

"Also they will be able to see the various laws put in place and we will clarify any misconception they may have regarding the Decrees."

Sayed Khaiyum said he also wants to clarify to the ILO that the recent arrest of unionists Daniel Urai and Dinesh Gounder were not because they are unionists but because they broke the law.
He said he finds it "tragically hypocritical" that some unionists who have been going overseas talk about the rule law but are themselves breaking the law.

“These two gentlemen have been charged and the matter is before the courts and so you let the court decide. The question is, are you going to interfere with the judicial process? “We have seen people who have been in Fiji being charged with various offences - the charge has either been dropped; the court has not found them guilty or they have been discharged.

“Let them go through the judicial process. If the matter has merit, it will succeed; if it doesn’t, the independent judiciary will find them not guilty. It’s very simple,” he said.

The ILO delegation arrives in Nadi at five o'clock this afternoon.

Coming Up ....the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation speaks to Coupfourpointfive.

Hindus restricted from celebrating religious festivals

Pooja or prayers at a Hindu home

Hindus in Fiji will now have to apply for a permit from the regime for small gatherings to observe religious festivals at home.

Just as Christians celebrate Christmas and Muslims Prophet Mohammed's birthday, Hindus celebrate Lord Rama and Lord Krishna's birthdays in April and August. 

The regime says gatherings are not allowed under the Public Emergency Regulations.

But Hindus are questioning why they're being targeted as church services on Saturday's and Sunday's do not need permits. Similarly they say, Muslims do not need a permit to gather for their weekly prayers every Friday. 

Dewan Chand Maharaj
Coupfourpointfive has been told that the largest Hindu religious organisation in Fiji, the Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha, should be condemning this move by the regime but it won't because the President of the Sabha, Dewan Chand Maharaj and Secretary Vijendra Prakash, are key supporters of the regime.

Vijendra Prakash
A letter has been sent to Coupfourpointfive to show how Maharaj and Prakash have been taking advantage of the situation by telling Hindus that unless they are members of a mandali that is affiliated to the Sanatan Dharam, they will not be allowed to celebrate any religious festival at home. This is even though they have been doing so for many years.

The letter written in April also says that any Hindu or mandali wanting a permit must obtain written consent from at least 15 of the mandali, members or neighbours and even the nearest church pastor in an area where the religious occasion will be observed. 

In contrast, a Church does not need written consent from its neighbours or the Hindu mandali.

In the letter, Prakash says these conditions are important for the "promotion of national unity as per the National Charter (Peoples Charter). The Sabha was a active participant in the Charter process through Majaraj while Prakash served as an Administrator of Suva City Council.

But the Sabha's stance of religious persecution even violates the illegal Peoples Charter that says "we recognise the freedom of our various communities to follow their beliefs..." and places priority to "equality and dignity of all citizens" and "respect for the diverse cultural, religious, and philosophical beliefs".

No comments: