The Dubious Midnight Deal

  • 4th February 2016
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On the very day (29 Jan) the ILO Tripartite Mission departed our shores, the Fiji Trades Union Congress signed yet another agreement with the Fijian government and the employers organization FECF seeking full implementation of their earlier agreement of 25 March 2015 in Geneva.

Just the day before FTUC National Secretary Felix Anthony had claimed that no agreement had been reached in their talks with the ILO Mission in the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB). In fact, in an interview with ABC Radio he said it was highly likely Fiji would be declared a rogue state.

The 29 January agreement (if it can be called that) lists 8 matters which remained outstanding from the 25 March agreement and called for their implementation. In fact, nothing from that agreement had been effectively implemented up until the arrival of the ILO Mission.

Why then sign another agreement Felix? Why not let the process continue – if the government did not honour the 25 March Agreement then the ball was in Government’s court – not yours. Nothing has been gained so far and given the devious ways of this government, there is no guarantee that they have not taken you out for another ride and conned you into technically withdrawing the complaint to ILO.

The 29 January agreement is badly drafted and is defective in many respects:

  • It does not hold the government to a timeline. It makes no reference to the defaults committed (obviously intentionally) by the government to undermine and frustrate the implementation of the 25 March agreement.
  • Paragraph 19 of the document is an insult to the trade union movement. It states: “Subject to the implementation of [the] paragraph 18 and in light of the achievements and concessions, the Parties agree that there is no need whatsoever for the ILO to pursue the Article 26 Complaint any further, as the Parties agree that all relevant issues are resolved.”
    We ask: “What achievements and what concessions, Mr  Anthony? Should you not have exercised greater caution in light of the bad faith demonstrated by this government following the 25 March agreement?
  • The document omits to deal properly with the three important issues identified by the (ILO) Committee of Experts as impinging on the freedom of association – namely:
  1. the provisions in the imposed 2013 constitution restricting the right to freedom of association; and
  2. the ban on trade union officials from exercising their  political rights
  3. the extended list of industries placed under essential services. Why do we need assistance in determining the list of industries under essential services. Why not revert to the list in the ERP before it was unilaterally added to by Khaiyum to a point of ridicule?
  • A further blunder is limiting to $25,000 the amount of compensation that can be awarded to any employee whose employment was unfairly terminated under the provisions of the ENI Decree.
  • Lastly, the time limitation of 7 days within which to apply for the registration of a a trade union deregistered under an ENI. Why such a short period – how can they possibly complete such a task within such an unreasonable timeframe?

The workers are crying out for what was snatched away from them by an anti-union government. They will not gain anything new even if the agreement is fully implemented. They had all these internationally recognized rights before the draconian decrees of Khaiyum and Bainimarama removed them unilaterally.

Remember what Bainimarama told the Fiji Taxi Union members way back in 2010: “I hate the word union,” he said, scaring their officials to change the name to Fiji Taxi Association – what a pack of brave boys!

The 29 January document claims to be the Joint Implementation Report of the Tripartite Partners. But that is not so as it was not referred to ERAB for the endorsement of the parties prior to it being surreptitiously signed around midnight in Khaiyum’s office.