Fiji : Kuini Lutua - fighting to strengthen the Fiji union movement
Kuini Lutua at her office in Suva. Picture: SHALVEEN CHAND
KUINI Lutua, the woman
who was at the helm of Fiji Nursing Association during their trying times, believes more should be done to strengthen the union movement in Fiji.
At 61, she still continues her work as a unionist, this time being involved with workers in the manufacturing sector.
"The younger generation of workers do not realise the strength the union has. What I can see from experience is that the younger generation do not realise that most of the benefits they are enjoying at work is through the hard work of the union," she said.
"Compared to the days when the union movement was strong, I feel there is very little solidarity among workers nowadays. They are divided on issues such as personal benefits and I feel of late there has been disunity because of race.
"From the work that I have done, it's not so much our people here. I think in a way it is creeping back. In a way it is being brought by foreign people that are in the workforce now, some people, who have been hired especially in the manufacturing sector, those things are coming back.
"I am trying to tell our local people, you have to be united. You cannot try and fight against each other because that is their card, the employers' card to break you, to divide you. So you need to work together and whatever you are fighting for, if you know that your colleague will benefit, continue to fight and continue to work together and have a united voice.
"That's the message we are sending across. It is slowly coming back and that is a dangerous thing to happen."
A union is an organised group of workers who collectively use their strength to have a voice in their workplace. Through a union, workers have a right to impact wages, work hours, benefits, workplace health and safety, job training and other work-related issues.
Mrs Lutua said the union movement was not as strong as it used to be.
"I can say it is very weak although Fiji Trades Union Congress is trying very hard to work with Government and do what it can do to its very best. I think one of the weaknesses is also the break in the unions. We now have two national union bodies and also the laws that have been passed," she said.
Mrs Lutua also believes that problems pertaining to Fiji should be solved internally before the international unions and the International Labour Organization is asked to be involved.
"I have always maintained this with ILO, let us deal our matters internally first because if we are going to have sanctions it would affect Fiji as a whole and more so the general workers. The poor people," she said.
Mrs Lutua urged workers to learn what a union can do for them and above all recognise the strength in unity.
According to her it is as simple as the words written on the Public Employees Union building in Edinburgh Drive, Suva, "United we stand, divided we fall."