Urai, the President of the Fiji Trades Union Congress and Felix Anthony, the General Secretary, arrived on Monday, 25 July.
Unionists Daniel Urai and Felix Anthony have returned after several weeks of meetings in Australia and New Zealand to rally support from unions there against the disempowering of public sector unions by the military--led regime.
Urai, the President of the Fiji Trades Union Congress and Felix Anthony, the General Secretary, arrived on Monday, 25 July.
FIJI PUBLIC SERVICE ASSOCIATION
FPSA Response to Media Releases
Wed 20th July 2011
TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN FIJI FPSA AIMS & OBJECTS
The FPSA Constitution provides for the Aims & Objectives of our Association. In short, the main goal is to protect and promote the welfare and interests of its Members through whatever means or channels available. Job security and a stable working environment with just rewards are allied objectives. The Association has always striven for such objectives throughout its long history of serving employees in the Public Sector of the nation. Repeatedly the Members have renewed and solidified those objectives via regularly conducted annual meetings.
In recent times since 2007, the FPSA National Coun cil has taken the initiative to protect its Members from an ongoing ons laught against their rights, e.g. lowering of retirement age, lack of pay upgrades and absence of collective bargaining etc.
However, since 2009, upon the abrogation of the Fiji Constitution, the numerous Decrees issued have further eroded the lot of our Members, the details of which are in the public domain, and against which all avenues of checks and balances, the right for appeal or redress have also been unilaterally removed. Due to these destructive developments, we cannot now approach any forum, be it a Tribunal, the Employer or the Courts in Fiji to find justice. So who do we turn to?
Such unilateral and dictatorial actions by the largest employer in the nation are against the valuable norms of reasonable thinking, the UN Declaration of Human & Rights and several ILO Conventions. The nation is a signatory to them and have pledged to uphold them. Fiji has undertaken to do all possible to uphold these cherished principles, not take actions against them, which are among the legitimate expectations of the workers of this country.
It is in this light, and in face of the draconian Decree #21 of 2011, which blatantly removed our Public Service Members from the protection of the labour laws of Fiji, and under the authority provided by the National Council, that the FPSA Secretariat has
embarked on a campaign to restore the Members rights.
The confirmed authority for such actions is held and strengthened each year by our Annual General Meetings, which have further mandated the National Council to exercise the rights in our Constitution. The June 2011 NC Meeting further resolved to direct the FPSA Secretariat to continue in our legitimate pursuit for the restoration of the rights of Members. Hence our approach to trade union brethren for this purpose.
The foregoing facts will more than adequately counter the suggestions and rumour mill that certain persons are relying on that FPSA Members have not authorized their Officials to embark on a mission to restore their rights. The opposite is true. There have been no approach or request by any financial and legitimate FPSA Member over past several weeks, months and years for the Council to do otherwise. Thus the release from a Govt source that certain FPSA Members have shown concern at the turn of events carries no water.
There have been no calls for the resignation of the General Secretary, and if any, then normal process must be followed. Our Members realize that they cannot run to the Employer for such a purpose. But they hold the options in their own hands to utilize under our Constitution. If a group of such Members, who should rea lize the predicament \they are in, does exist, then it can be safely surmised that they are doing it for a different purpose which is not in support of the larger rank and file membership of our union.
On another subject, five years ago the National Council sanctioned the purchase of a vehicle to replace and older model and which remains the property of the Association and its Members in accordance with our established policies. An official vehicle has been part of the FPSA holdings for over forty years. It is employed in the furtherance of the aims and objectives of the union under strict guidelines and its value and worth is always preserved. The purchase price of the current property was less than half the figure that the Minister has alluded to in his unfounded and weak diatribe against us. It reveals starkly the veracity and credibility of his sources, or perhaps the facts were padded to suit his purpose at the spur of the moment.
Furthermore, the FPSA General Secretary is elected at our AGM and his tenure is held at the whim of the Members. The current incumbent has repeatedly been returned to office for eleven years from 2000 to date. Such facts speak loudly for themselves.
Under true democratic principles all positions in the Association is open to all financial Members to vie for, but not run elsewhere with unfounded complaints.
Wed 20th July 2011
The Fiji Public Service Association has responded to the Ministry of Information's press statement released on Wednesday, July 20, calling for the resignation of General Secretary Rajeshwar Singh over claims that his lobbying overseas for union support was not mandated by the association's members.
Read the Ministry of Information with in-line rebuttals here.
FPSA Service Worker
Vol 34, No. 03/2011
A Journal of the Fiji Public Service Association, G P O Box 1405, Suva, Fiji[Confidential to financial FPSA Members & Officials only]
22nd July 2011
Loss of Trade Union Rights & Govt Attack on FPSA
In the last few days, there has been an open public attack by some Govt officials against your Association in the form of false information and rumours. We have tried to reply in public but due to existence of the 2010 Media Decree and PER, the local media are not able to publish them. They admit they are being censored, t hus only one side of the story comes out in the public and this is a great disservice to us all. As a result, some of our Members may be a bit confused.
The purpose of this issue of our Journ al is to set the facts rights. Please read and understand the following and distribute it, plus the attachments, as widely as possible among other Members via whatever means available. For the moment, this may be the only way to get our message across.
The Association continues its normal operations and objective of serving its Members as best possible, despite the presence of many Decrees that are designed to thwart and weaken our resolve and to curtail the effects.
Members were advised fully via previous issues of this Journal and the 2009 & 2010 Annual Reports of the promulgation of 2009 Decree (State Services) No. 2009/10 (Administration of Justice), and No. 2010/1 4 and their various negative effects on our Members.
Even if that was not sufficient, they introduced Decree No. 21 of 2011 with effect from 16th May 2011 via which the Govt itself removed the right of its own workers from the protection of Employment Relations Promulgation [ERP] 2007. Whether or not one is a union member , it affects all Public Servants. Once again, dozens of Members’ claim, disputes and award that were existing or pending were terminated by the stroke of a pen, and no recourse is available to our members in any forum.
The ERP 2007, which was arrived at by a tripartite consensus but the Govt now turns around and declares by the Decree 21/11 that their own workers cannot now benefit from or be protected by the ERP. The third party (FEF) kept quiet, but now is jumping up and down for different reasons – probably for possible loss of profit making. This Decree #21 was never published in the Fiji media. But Fiji Gazette notice and soft copies are available for general reference. The Secretariat, the FPSA Management Board and
National Council have thoroughly discuss ed the Decree and resolved to take suitable steps to counter it.
EFFECT ON PUBLIC SERVICE
The whole of ERP 2007 is now beyond the reach of thousands of Public Service workers. The only exception being OHS and Workmen’s Compensation, which however operatesunder their own Acts. To appreciate the extent of the losses, the following is a brief description of the main sections of ERP 2007 which no longer applies to all Govt staff:
1. Fundamental Rights at Work.
2. ER Labour Advisory Board and functions of official s.
3. Valid Contracts of Service.
4. Protection of Wages.
5. Rights to Minimum Conditions of Work, i.e. hours, public holidays & leave etc.
6. EEO and Protection from Discrimination.
7. Protection from Redundancy or Unfair Treatment.
8. Registering of Employment Grievances & Disputes.
9. Protection from Sexual Harassment.
10.Right to Collective Bargaining & Collective Agreements.
11.Right to Challenge Employer’s Decisions.
12.Right to Report Disputes to Mediation, Tribunal or Labour Court.
13.Right to Appeals at all levels.
14.Subsidiary ERP legislation no longer applicable.
The foregoing list amounts to a total loss of trade union and workers rights for all Civil Servants in Fiji (except those in privileged positions) . Thus FPSA was right to embark on an objective to reverse this drastic situation for our Members. To ignore it or do nothing would be worse than the effects of the decrees themselves, and in breach of our fundamental aims and objectives.
The FPSA Constitution provides for such actions and all recent AGMs and the National Council, which has the authority, had authorized the FPSA Secretariat to undertake such activities to their fullest.
IMPENDING NEW DECREES
The situation described above was serious enough, but it is widely known that Fiji Govt has formulated two new Draft Decrees aimed again at the trade unions which will be much more drastic in nature.
They will impact directly on the very existence and operation of the trade unions as we know it now.
The Decrees are titled: (1) “Vital National Industries Decree 2011” and (2) “Critical Industries in Financial Distress Decree 2011.” The first Decree, in its draft form, aims to decimate the existing trade unions in the two identified sectors, i.e. Sugar and Airline industries, which has five Critical Corporations listed. This new law is fully pro-management and entirely anti-union. Thus the issue has become a direct and
serious concern of many trade unions in Fiji.
The draft Decree will seek to impose direct control over the trade unions and severely restrict their operations and rights. The sections of Purpose, Principles and Objectives describe their intentions, but the rest of the draft decree deals on how to neutralize the existence of collective agreements and the trade unions. They have changed the name of union to “Bargaining Unit”. Their plans are directly opposed and in blatant disregard to ILO Conventions, UN Human Rights Principles and the Fiji ERP 2007 provisions.
The second proposed Decree is again totally in favour of Employers, who may in cases of business downturn, losses or bankruptcy, use it to shelter themselves and to neutralize trade unions and their existing collective agreements. Though circulated around, none of Fiji media reported on these two proposed Decrees because of the Media Decree
and Press Censorship.
REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE
Recently certain trade union leaders in Fiji were ha rassed, intimidated and physically assaulted, just because they carried ou t their legitimate union functions. Certain FPSA officials had also been confronted in the past. It was under these circumstances, on behalf of all members of all trade unions in Fiji, that FTUC sought assistance to have the workers rights restored.
Apart from contacting our international brethren, we also sent a message to ILO HQ in Geneva on these most critical issues. The response from ILO was heartening and we are expecting some developments soon.
Our sister Global Unions, e.g. GUF, PSI, ITF, ITUC, ITUC -AP, ACTU, NZCTU and IUF have responded well and provided sterling moral and solidarity support. They wrote strong individual letters to the President of Fiji and the Prime Minister recently calling for the immediate halt to assault on union officials, a reversal of repressive decrees, observance of ILO Conventions, application of just and fair practices and return to democratic norms. Copies of these documents are available and will be circulated for your information.
The Fiji media only reported on the ACTU and NZCTU responses which is very supportive of our stand.
FIJI NATIONAL PROVIDEN T FUND
This unique heritage of workers of Fiji, including FPSA Members, has suffered its own onslaught from others for years. The general public who are FNPF Members had raised their concerns and aspirations on the subject of FNPF pension etc. FPSA has been taking steps for many years on this matter, and once again we were in the forefront of efforts to protect the FNPF from new drastic reforms . But it appears that the authorities will ignore all of us and continue with their plans to penalize the workers. It was to protect our legacy in the FNPF that the unions in Fiji are presently engaged in seeking assistance as best possible.
PROPAGANDA AGAINST FPSA
The authorities then sought to discredit FPSA and its official by broadcasting erroneous and false information on such subjects as General Secretaries pay and FPSA vehicle, when they had no creditable response to our cries for the restoration of trade union and human rights . We have responded to those allegations. Next comes a fictitious “ group of FPSA Members” who appear to be creation of Ministry of Information who have suddenly cropped up to oppose our actions with impunity and embark on false propaganda which has now decimated their creditability altogether. We have also replied to them at length. Both these FPSA releases will not be published locally, thus we attach the full text of them with this issue for you to peruse thoroughly.
Please be assured that there is nothing wrong within FPSA as this “group” claims via their mouthpiece who appears to have promised promotion as their rewards. All our operations, actions and objectives are enshrined in our FPSA Constitution and based on facts and authorities, which comes from the general membership.
LONG LIVE WORKER SOLIDARITY!
FIJI TRADES UNION CONGRESS
32 DES VOUEX ROAD, P.O. BOX 1418, SUVA, FIJI
PRESIDENT: Daniel Urai
NATIONAL SECRETARY: Felix Anthony
PRESS RELEASE ON ALLEGATIONS RE FNPF
The Regime continues to make personal allegations on Mr. Daniel Urai and myself. These allegations appear on all media outlets in Fiji and in the Fiji Sun, FM96, Fijilive, Fiji Village and FBCL with much vigor. Yet our media releases are not allowed to be published or aired on the radio. We ask what is there to hide from the public by disallowing our FTUC media releases.
If the regime is honest in its conduct, then there should be nothing to hide from the public. We now urge the Regime to allow free media so that we can have a constructive and open debate on all issues. The citizens of Fiji should be allowed to make a free and fair judgment on these issues.
In relation to the Regime's claims on payment of allowances to Board Members of FNPF and other related Boards, we say any payment that were made to Board Members were in accordance with the Rules and longstanding Government policy. We deny that we made payments to ourselves as claimed. All payments were handled by Management and were subject to Audit, hence the Audit Report to which the government is continuously referring to. No Audit Report cast any doubt or claims that payments were out of order. We understand that this debate can go on without any resolution and the public would never get to know the real truth.
In the public interest, I am prepared to disclose all my bank records and tax returns which must be subject to an independent audit to ascertain the real facts provided the Prime Minister and the Attorney General are prepared to do the same. Let’s find out where the real abuse is and who has been paying who what.
There is no value in attempting to defame people or fool people. The citizens of Fiji need the truth and its time the Regime opened its books to the people who pay. After all the regime was to clean up, and being transparent would be a good way to start, albeit five years late.
The real issue in question is the violation of workers’ rights. The regime is sidestepping the issue by making baseless personal allegations. It’s time that we concentrated on real issues.
Fiji Sun's headline today, and Fiji 1 News' 6pm bulletin yesterday, carried condemnations of the Fiji union movement's attempts to prevent an erosion of workers' rights.
The Fiji Sun's banner headline on the front page reads: "OUT, UNIONS TELL SINGH" on Fiji Public Service Association General Secretary Rajeshwar Singh's trip to New Zealand to rally support from unionists there.
But the reporter Rachna Lal only ever quotes the Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary Sharon Smith-Johns as saying FPSA members want Singh to resign immediately because they never gave him the mandate to travel to New Zealand.
It's interesting that there was not a single disgruntled worker quoted in the article and no response from Singh or a representative of the unions to add balance to the story. The headline is also disingenuous, giving the impression that several "unions" want Singh's resignation when we are not told who these unions are or which members are disgruntled.
FIJI SUN EXCERPT:
OUT, UNIONS TELL SINGH
Civil Servants have expressed their fury over the conduct of the Fiji Public Service Association (FPSA) general secretary Rajeshwar Singh in Australia.
They have called for Mr Singh’s immediate resignation.
Permanent Secretary (PS) for Information Sharon Smith-Johns told the Fiji Sun that FPSA members, who are civil servants, have questioned Mr Singh’s actions in seeking support from trade unions in Australia and New Zealand.
“They believe Mr Singh does not have mandate to speak on behalf of the FPSA as there was no consultation carried out on the issue,” she said.
Her comments came in light of the threat to Fiji flights made by Australian Transport Workers Union which posed a direct threat to Fiji’s tourism, businesses, workers and the economy.
Ms Smith-Johns said the fact that Mr Singh had taken annual leave at the same time leaving the country to attend the trade union meeting, was an indication that this could have been pre-planned.
“The point is, from workers perspective, he is over there representing them, when they have not asked him to go and represent them.
“He is in Australia with a personal agenda and calling for a strike action there which will not help this country in any way. It will cripple this country,” Ms Smith-Johns said.
SOURCE: Fiji Sun
See the response to this article from the FTUC here.
FIJI TRADES UNION CONGRESS
PRESS RELEASE (2) - RESPONSE TO RECENT GOVERNMENT ACTIONS REGARDING TRADE UNION
We, the FTUC, condemn the direct interference of the Government in the affairs of our affiliate, the Fiji Public Service Association (FPSA) through the media release by the Ministry of Information and the comments of the Attorney General.
Government has no business in the internal affairs of any Union. We remind the Government that Officials of the affiliates of FTUC are elected and therefore have full legitimacy unlike this Government. Unions have a mandate to speak on behalf of the workers they represent and are governed by rules and a Constitution. If any member is aggrieved by any decision of the Union, the Constitution of the Unions provide for process to address these concerns. It does not require Government to try and intervene in the internal affairs of the unions.
The FTUC clearly sees such intervention by Government as an attempt to weaken the solidarity of Unions and their members and to politically weaken Unions. This will not work. The FTUC urges Government to respect the rights of workers and their Freedom of Association. Such actions are also in breach of ILO Core Conventions which the Government has ratified and is obligated to respect and promote. It is our sincere hope that Fiji is not judged as a rouge state in the ILO.
The FTUC is also concerned at the comments attributed to the Attorney General which appear to be petty in nature where personal attacks are being made on various elected leaders of the Unions. We remind the Attorney General that these Unions and their Leaders are legitimate and legal and that the Attorney General has no standing in questioning the actions or decisions of these Unions for obvious reasons.
We ask, what consultations and mandate the Attorney General has to produce Decrees and impose them on the citizens. If the Attorney General wants accountability from Unions, he needs to start with himself. Can he tell the Nation what he is costing the taxpayers and why the taxpayers who did not choose him to lead, should pay.
FIJI TRADES UNION CONGRESS
PRESS RELEASE – RESPONSE TO FCEF STATEMENT
We, the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) are appalled by the statement issued by the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF) calling on FTUC to refrain from protecting the very existence of Trade Unions in Fiji.
We remind FCEF of the recent agreement between the Government, the FCEF AND FTUC on the Decent Work Country Programme wherein the parties agreed to the promotion and respect of the ILO Core Labour Conventions. Recent decrees namely the Administration of Justice Decrees 2009 and subsequent Amendment Decree and Decree Number 21 of 2011 blatantly violate the Core Conventions and attempt to decimate the Trade Unions in the Public Sector and Government owned entities. We cannot have two sets of laws, one for the Public Sector and another for the Private Sector. We expect that when agreements are entered into, they are fully respected.
The FCEF should remind Government of their obligations and ask that Government respect their side of the deal instead of lecturing FTUC. The impact of any action by Unions is a direct result of the breach and violations of workers’ fundamental rights which the FCEF recognizes.
We urge the FCEF not to attempt to play politics now and put the blame where it rightfully belongs.
Wed, 20 Jul 2011
Fiji's interim government has accused the head of the country's trade union movement of misrepresenting its plight to overseas unions.
Felix Anthony, the national secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, has been in Australia, New Zealand and Europe seeking support from overseas unions to fight what he sees as draconian new laws restricting union rights.
Fiji Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khayum says Mr Anthony has misled overseas unions into believing the interim government is anti-union.
While speaking to Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program, he also accused the FTUC secretary of being disloyal to Fiji, and potentially putting the country's tourism industry in jeopardy.
"When we talk about the tourism industry, we're not just talking about the hotel owners," he said.
"You're talking about the lady in the village who makes handicrafts, you're talking about people who grow pawpaws from the village and sell it to the hotels. You're affecting tens of thousands of people, you're affecting their livelihood. This is what Felix Anthony is advocating."
SOURCE: Radio Australia News
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Fiji union unrest has spread here with its New Zealand unions vowing full support to their Fijian counterparts in the face restrictions being imposed by the Fijian regime.
The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions says it’ll step up action in support of Fiji unions if leaders like Felix Anthony are further victimised by the Fiji regime. Fifteen unions met the senior Fiji Trades Union Congress official in New Zealand on Monday.
He told them of increased intimidation of union workers by the Fiji military and increasing curbs on union activity.
The secretary of the New Zealand Council Peter Conway said unions representing maritime and airline workers may place bans or boycotts on services to Fiji and any action may be brought forward if Mr Anthony’s targeted when he returns home.
“We’re not ruling action out or in. Our preference would be that there is action but we’re a democratic movement and that has to be discussed with members and we’re also aware that when you take action of this sort you need to have broad public support.”
Mr Conway says he’ll seek support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enable Mr Anthony to return home safely.
Fiji’s interim attorney-general has hit out at union leaders who he says are promoting sanctions which will hurt the grassroots of Fiji.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told Radio Fiji that union leaders were portraying a false picture of the ground realities in Fiji and said they were out for their own self-preservation.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said leaders like Mr Anthony had used unions for their own benefit, initially supporting the interim government to further their careers.
Meanwhile, Fiji's President is receiving letters from pensioners, employers and employees calling on him to appoint a Commission of Enquiry into the country's pension fund.
Earlier this year, the financially troubled Fiji National Provident Fund put forward a plan that would see old age pensions cut by up to 64 per cent.
The planned cut has angered pensioners, who have launched legal action in Fiji's High Court in an attempt to stop the FNPF from going ahead with it. On Monday afternoon, the High Court postponed its ruling on legal action taken by the government and the pension fund to strike out the pensioners' challenge.
Over the weekend, the FNPF paid for newspaper advertisements claiming those opposing the cuts were a few self-interested individuals who are deliberately spreading false rumours.
The FNPF said the pension cuts would go ahead on September 1, with those below the Basic Needs Poverty line exempt. Employers, pensioners and members of the FNPF have turned to President Epeli Nailatikau, calling on him to establish an Independent Commission of Inquiry into Fund mismanagement.
SOURCE: Indian Weekender