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Industrial Strike Must Be A Measure Of Last Resort

Industrial Strike Must Be A Measure Of Last Resort
October 02
11:25 2017

While the Fijian Constitu­tion guarantees the right to peaceful assembly, demonstration and picketing as well as confers to trade unions and employers the right to bargain col­lectively, strikes and lockouts must be a measure of last resort consid­ering its disruptive and potentially deleterious consequences.

It is imperative that the remedies for employment disputes and griev­ances outlined in national legisla­tive framework namely the Em­ployment Relations Act (ERA) are fully exhausted before a strike or a lockout is even considered.

It must be noted that even the In­ternational Labour Organisation (ILO) position is that “disputes over rights set out in law, collective agreements or contracts of employ­ment are often not considered to justify recourse to strike action.

This is because the parties are expected to have recourse to adju­dication by the relevant judicial or other body to resolve the dispute, following any conciliation proce­dure that may be applicable”.

Due consideration must also be given to the fact that health servic­es falls within the ambit of essen­tial services.

The ILO has taken the position that “it is admissible to limit or pro­hibit the right to strike in essential services, defined as those the inter­ruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the popula­tion”.

The right to strike is not absolute and often subjected to certain legal conditions or restrictions as recog­nised by the ILO.

The Commission, therefore, im­plores those calling for an unlawful walkout to take full cognisance of the limitations set out under Sec­tion 20 (5) (e) and (f) of the Fijian Constitution and fully exhaust the processes of good faith in bargain­ing for collective agreement as out­lined under s.149 of the ERA, the development of a code of good faith as per the provisions of s.152 with an explicit reference to s.174 of the ERA which provides that where a strike or lockout is threatened in an essential service that there is an opportunity for a mediated solution to the problem.

In the interests of protecting the economic and social wellbeing of not only our nurses but also the social and economic rights of or­dinary Fijians particularly the in­digent, the most vulnerable in our society who have no other recourse but to our public health facilities, the Human Rights and Anti-Dis­crimination Commission strongly encourages all parties to act in good faith in bargaining for a col­lective agreement.

This will require putting the peo­ple of Fiji before politics and paro­chialism.



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