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EDITORIAL: ATS Workers’ Strike Turns into A Political Scrum

EDITORIAL: ATS Workers’ Strike Turns into A Political Scrum
January 11
10:48 2018

SODELPA and the Fiji Labour Party are locked in a battle to play the political surrogate role for the striking Air Terminal Services workers in Nadi.

With the impending collapse of the People’s Democratic Party, the FLP, which was the original workers’ voice, has been working hard to regain its lost support in the labour movement.

SODELPA, on the other hand, has found new energy to make forays into the industrial relations scene through one of its newest acquisitions, Lynda Tabuya, a former PDP leader and vocal activist.

After the initial flurry of responses from various political parties over the illegal ATS workers’ strike, it is increasingly becoming clear that SODELPA has risen to the top of the pack. FLP is breathing down SODELPA’s neck, the National Federation Party seems to have faded and Unity Fiji remains in the background, struggling to make a noticeable impact.

The political scrum was unfortunately mounted at the expense of the poor striking workers who should be back at work earning money to sustain their families. They have been used as pawns in a political game by politicians who are captalising on the dispute to enhance their political standing.

The trade unions involved are equally culpable in this saga. Who gave the workers direction to break the law (the Employment Relations Promulgation Act)?

The workers left their work station at Nadi Airport and attended a beneficiaries meeting for three hours. That walkout or strike was ruled unlawful by the Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jone Usamate because it breached the law.

Whoever was responsible in influencing the strike should be held accountable. This is what the rule of law is all about. There are procedures and processes that must be followed before workers can desert their work stations in a strike. They were not followed.

We should not perpetuate an idea that we can resort to illegal measures to achieve our goal. That will make justice and the rule of law a farce.

Some have conveniently forgotten the origin of this ATS dispute. They have jumped on an emotional bandwagon and escalated the dispute to discredit the ATS management and the Government and score cheap political points.

Other constituent members of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, like the Fiji Teachers Union will now join a march of support for the strikers in Nadi Town on Saturday.

Opposition political parties are certain to be there. SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka and Ms Tabuya yesterday tried to rally the people to support the strikers. But the reality is that the real issues in this dispute have been lost in the maze of politics. The core issues have been overshadowed by wider issues that have little or no relevance to this dispute.

It appears this march on Saturday is part of a bigger plan to recreate what happened in 1987. The  unions then formed a united front and helped topple the ruling Alliance Government of the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

The instigators of Saturday’s rally need to know that the circumstances in 1987 were different.

In 1987, the Government was not delivering.

In 2018, the FijiFirst Government is delivering. That’s the difference.

For Mr Rabuka and Ms Tabuya the ATS dispute culminating in the march is an opportunity to build the support of the workers. But whether that will translate to votes in the next election remains unknown.


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