FLP is surprised at the President’s attack on trade unionists in an address he gave to the Fiji Human Resources Institute’s 2012 Convention held at the Shangri-La Fijian Resort last week-end.
He said Fiji “needed to guard against the work of some unionists who tend to use the union movement as a veil to achieving ulterior and self-serving motives”.
Ratu Epeli Nailatikau was referring to Government concerns that the livelihood of thousands of Fiji workers could be jeopardized should Fiji be removed from the list of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) under which it enjoys duty free export quota into the US.
Fiji is currently being investigated by the US Trade Representative, following complaints by trade unions, for its violation of workers’ rights under several draconian decrees which have affected their right to collective bargaining and freedom of association in the public sector and selected key industries.
It has been given three weeks to respond to complaints lodged by the unions.
The President, in his speech, said trade unions needed to “address issues for the collective good of all workers and the nation as a whole, instead of working in the interests of a select few”.
We find the President’s criticism of trade unionists having “ulterior and self- serving motives” unfair and unwarranted. This regime has shown by its policies and actions that it is anti-worker and anti-poor.
Its anti-worker decrees have violated international conventions on trade unions and workers’ rights, in particular ILO Conventions 87 and 98. It has assaulted and harassed trade union officials and stopped them from holding legitimate union meetings.
Time and again, it has held back or denied the awarding of pay increases to poorly paid workers in the unorganized sector, knowing full well that low wage rates are the root cause of poverty in Fiji.
If anything, it is the regime that needs to be censored for its violation of workers’ rights. We do not wish to see Fiji being reduced to the same status as some Asian nations known for their abuse and gross exploitation of labour.
For Fiji the message is clear: if it wishes to benefit from trade concessions offered by the international community, it needs to abide by the rules and norms of the community.