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Ratu Inoke tells UN: Our Fijian labour reforms protect workers

Strong speech as unionists threaten 15,000 jobs here By ELLEN STOLZ In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, Foreign Minister,
30 Sep 2012 09:03

Strong speech as unionists threaten 15,000 jobs here

By ELLEN STOLZ

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola promised to uphold the rights of Fijian workers.
Ratu Inoke launched a strong defence of the Government’s labour reforms in a wide-ranging speech to the General Assembly in New York.
He said: “The Bainimarama Government’s commitment to a future of equality and opportunity for all Fijians includes ensuring that the rights of working people are protected and extended. We seek to ensure that unions can take collective action as directed by their member workers.”
He added that the only restrictions on unions in Fiji were those that were generally accepted to protect the public good and the rights of those workers who chose not to partner with unions.
A Fijian Government delegation is in Washington this week to defend an attempt by the Fiji Trades Union Congress to stop Fiji from benefiting from the US Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Scheme.
The scheme has since 1976 given certain Fijian exporters duty free access to the United States. However this may all come to a halt soon because of pressure by trade unionists against the reforms.
A total of 39 Fijian companies are at risk of losing their preferential access to the US market and are being warned that 15 thousand Fijian workers could lose their jobs if the action succeeds.
Ratu Inoke said the Government envisaged that the new Constitution would also ensure workers’ rights.
“We expect the new constitution to help us to continue to build an environment that promotes safe working conditions, protects workers from arbitrary actions and allows workers to form unions”, he said.
The Foreign Minister said that as part of Fiji’s return to democracy, the Government was reviewing the country’s labour laws to ensure that they complied with 34 conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that Fiji had ratified. The tripartite Employment Relations Advisory Board was a key participant in this process.
“In this year alone, Fiji has ratified or adopted eight ILO instruments, as recommended by the tripartite board, including the Maritime Labour Convention 2006”, he said.
Ratu Inoke stressed the Government’s overall approach to labour relations was to empower ordinary workers. “The Bainimarama Government is committed to protecting workers who are fortunate enough to have jobs and to ensuring that all workers receive fair wages.
“We are equally committed to creating employment opportunities for the young and less affluent”, he said.




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