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Analysis: Trade Unions Fail to Submit their Log of Claims to Employment Relations Advisory Board

Analysis: Trade Unions Fail to Submit their Log of Claims to Employment Relations Advisory Board
November 09
12:25 2018

It appears that trade unions want to replicate what happened in 1987.

Leading up to the April general elections of that year trade unions banded together and took their fight for better pay and conditions to the political arena.

They won and defeated the long ruling Alliance Government which paid the price for not engaging with the workers’ union.

The situation is not exactly the same this time.

Official records show that no union had submitted its log of claims to the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB).

If unions were really concerned with their members why hadn’t they lodged their logs of claims. They can criticize the Government but if they have not done their due diligence in the interest of their workers, then they have no grounds to speak out.

The reason they are there is to ensure that workers are protected – getting reasonable wages and working conditions.

The only union that did something for its workers was the Fiji Bank & Sector Workers Union – but it was about seeking a five per cent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) from an insurance company, not for basic wage increase.

ERAB is a tripartite forum between the employers, workers’ reps and the Government. It discusses log of claims, minimum wages, cost of living adjustments, employment legislations and relevant issues.

The minimum wage was not discussed before the workers’ reps walked out  saying Government was being difficult.

Instead, unions and their political surrogates are now pushing for national minimum wage rates plucked from thin air without proper thoughts about their overall implications on business and the economy.

The best forum to discuss it is ERAB.

But the unions have ditched ERAB and pursued their political ambition through their political parties.

Political parties are not represented in ERAB. So how can unions represent their workers and have their views heard. They can only do it in ERAB.

The National Federation Party wants $5 an hour and Attar Singh, the former Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions general secretary, is a candidate. SODELPA is pushing for $4 an hour and Fiji Labor Party wants $3.50 an hour.

If they were really serious then why was this not initiated earlier but became part of a political agenda?

The Employment Law provides for a provision for any increase in the salary. But none of the workers’ representatives has brought before ERAB any such proposal.

The Government on its own initiative has precisely stated in the Budget that the wages will be increased in future. But what the political parties are implying is  that any wage increase can be done overnight. This is realistically impossible and cannot be rationally justified.

In retrospect, the unions had done the workers a great disservice by walking out of ERAB.

The trade unions said it was a waste of time attending ERAB meetings.

But the employment laws were jointly agreed by the Government and the FTUC together with the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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