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Fiji: Independent trade unionism in danger

EI remains deeply concerned about the continued violation of international labour standards that are directly impacting on its affiliates, the Fijian Teachers’ Association (FTA) and the Fiji Teachers’ Union (FTU), as well as the repression of the entire labour movement in Fiji.

Fiji’smilitary government has been engaged in an all-out assault on trade unionism: the police have been given powers to detain, question and charge union officials with ‘unlawful assembly’, even when this relates to holding meetings to prepare for collective bargaining negotiations.

A series of laws and decrees are also violating fundamental worker rights. For example, a decree issued in August 2011, The Essential National Industries Employment Decree, voids existing collective bargaining agreements and eliminates the right to strike in any industry that the government may designate.

Fiji has been under a military dictatorship since 2006, after which it was suspended from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands’ Forum. The European Union has also suspended overseas aid payments to the ruling junta.

Despite the country having ratified the two relevant International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions: 98 (1974) and 87 (2002) which oblige it to observe workers’ rights that are enshrined within them, it continues to flaunt the terms of agreement. Moreover, as a member state of the ILO, Fiji’s government has an obligation to adhere to the Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work adopted by the ILO in 1998.

Following the International Labour Conference, in June 2011, where the case of Fiji was discussed and the absence of union rights of teachers was highlighted, an ILO special delegation visited Fiji in August. The delegation met representatives of the government, employers, and workers. The leader of EI's affiliate FTA, Tevita Koroi, was among the four workers representatives to meet the ILO delegation.

In August, EI sent another protest letter to the Fijian authorities and submitted a report to the ILO Committee of Experts exposing the authorities’ failure to comply with ILO Conventions. EI has also joined the international call for the restoration of trade union and democratic freedoms in Fiji.

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