The Fiji Government is misleading the ILO Conference currently underway in Geneva with commitments by its Permanent Secretary for Employment and Industrial Relations Osea Cawaru that his government will uphold trade union and workers rights.
These rights were under assault in Fiji even as Mr Cawaru was making a commitment to the 108th International Labour Conference that the Fiji government will respect these rights under its 2015 agreement with FTUC and the employers. (FT 21 June)
At 4pm on Monday National Farmers Union President Surendra Lal was arrested and taken to the Labasa Police Station where he was kept in a cell overnight and released 16 hours later on Tuesday, without being charged.
Mr Cawaru was making his commitment to the ILO Conference “not to harass trade unionists and to allow them to practice freedom of association, assembly and speech…” even as Mr Lal was brooding in a stinking cell at the Station.
“Faced with such realities, how can any such assurances by this government that it will respect the rights and freedoms of trade unions and workers be taken seriously?” asked NFU general secretary Mahendra Chaudhry.
“Clearly the ILO conference is being grossly misled by the Permanent Secretary about the realities on the ground in Fiji. The government has consistently violated the tripartite agreement it signed with FTUC and the Employers Federation in 2015, to respect trade union rights and freedoms,” he said.
Mr Chaudhry said Surendra Lal was arrested on allegations that he made a statement inciting the growers not to harvest at a meeting of stakeholders in Labasa last week.
Furthermore, NFU is told it needs a permit to hold a union meeting in Tavua this week-end when in fact no permit is required for such meetings. We know that any request for a permit will be refused.
“So where is this respect for freedom of association, assembly and speech that the ILO conference is being assured of by Mr. Cawaru? Or that trade unionists will not be harassed?” Mr Chaudhry asked.
Mr Chaudhry also condemned the abuse of Police powers in the intimidation, harassment and detention overnight of union officials.
“The Police are letting themselves to be used by this government to intimidate and harass trade unionists, in violation of its duty to protect people against such abuses,” Mr Chaudhry said.