Fiji : Fiji union concerned over workers rights despite ILO decision
A union leader in Fiji says worker rights are still a concern despite the laying aside of a possible Commission of Inquiry into the country's labour laws.
The move had
However following an ILO visit in January, an agreement was reached between the government, employers, and the Fiji Trades Unions Congress which led to the removal of the threat last week.
But Attar Singh from the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions told Koro Vaka'uta there are still outstanding issues to be dealt with.
ATTAR SINGH: The Constitution provides for certain areas, the Bill of Rights. Generally the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have caveats on all rights except the right to life. The Bill of Rights provision on freedom on association also has several caveats and the Committee of Experts of ILO have said that unless those caveats are removed the Constitution has got potential to restrict freedom of association of workers. They have called for that to be reviewed. Calls that have not been done and given the way the Constitution is written and the review process it is going to be a long process. The other one is the Political Parties Decree under which workers and trade union rights to political affiliation, political party membership and so forth is more restricted, disallowed. That is also under the microscope of the ILO and again ILO has said that such blanket restrictions were in violation of freedom of association. These are two key issues that remain outstanding. We would like to think that the ILO would not drop these issues and still pursue them with the Fijian government.
KORO VAKA'UTA: Given the news we had of the inquiry being laid aside and all the positivity that seems to be surrounding that, do you feel that your concerns are still being listened to?
AS: Well absolutely. What the governing body has decided, that the specific matter of the Commission of Inquiry, that process will no longer take place. That is not to say that the other processes under the supervisory mechanism of the ILO will not continue. I think those issues are before the ILO. I mean it will be illogical for ILO's Committee of Experts, having made a finding and having made recommendations, to suddenly retract from that.
KV: Is there any other action that your union will be doing to maybe highlight these concerns?
AS: We have done that. We have informed our people. We have made statements in Fiji and elsewhere to make it known. ILO is aware of it, you know, and we will leave it at that.
KV: I guess, but this announcement that this Commission of Inquiry is being laid aside, if you like, that is great news for Fiji?
AS: Well we would have thought that all the other issues that had been included as part of the settlement, unfortunately the FTUC and the parties signed the agreement short of those. Now that that hasn't happened and the inquiry has been called off, which is OK in the sense that the inquiry would have been quite damaging for Fiji, but I think in good faith it is important for all parties to also continue to pursue all the other issues that are outstanding.
KV: There's not a concern that now that the Commission of Inquiry has been avoided that the pressure is now off?
AS: Well that goes without saying. I think any government that's under a Commission of Inquiry there is a whole lot of pressure to bring about settlement to a lot of issues. That's why I am saying that the agreement that was signed by the tripartite partners fell short of these issues.