The case is absolutely clear: either Fiji is compliant with core ILO Conventions 87 and 98 or it is not. If it is not, then it must either become compliant or face the consequences- which in this case is an ILO Commission of Inquiry.
FTUC needs to understand that there is no longer any question of negotiation. Nor can there be any question of compromise on workers’ fundamental rights.
This issue has been dragging on since 2012 when the first complaint was lodged with the ILO on the Bainimarama regime’s breach of trade union and worker rights ie the case involving the arbitrary sacking of FTA President Tevita Koroi and the various cases of assault and harassment of trade union officials.
It came to a head in March this year when the governing body of the ILO gave Fiji until November to come up with a joint tripartite report on the Fiji situation.
FTUC knows full well that the government had 7 months in which to resolve the conflict. But it failed to act in good faith. Indeed, its actions were downright treacherous.
It revoked the offending Essential Industries Decree 35 of 2010 but repressive elements of the decree that violated ILO conventions on collective bargaining and freedom of association, were then incorporated into the amended Employment Relations Promulgation of 2015.
It has not removed provisions in the Political Parties Decree and the imposed 2013 Constitution that violate the rights of trade union officials to freedom of association by preventing them from forming political parties and barring them from contesting national elections.
At the 11th hour, the FF government is playing on the split within the trade union movement, to try and have its own way.
At this critical juncture unionists need to stand firm in protecting hard won workers’ rights. But Felix Anthony’s statement expressing confidence in the new Labour Minister (after being taken for a ride by two previous ministers) and his promise not to lobby or campaign for action if a Commission of Inquiry were appointed, is a sure sign of weak leadership. This sudden reversal of stance appears to have been hatched to marginalize FICTU.
FICTU’s Attar Singh, on the other hand, has made it clear that unless government addresses, in good faith, the issues at stake here, there is no deal. This message is not coming through from the FTUC leadership.
We sincerely hope, and trust, that trade union leaders will stand firm in putting the rights of workers and unions above their petty differences and personal agendas.
This is not the time to be vacillating!