OPINION: Workers Ultimate Losers In Inquiry

Nemani Delaibatiki spoke on this issue in his My Say programme on FBC Television on Sunday night Geneva may be far away from Fiji, but a decision that will be
29 Jun 2015 14:39
OPINION: Workers Ultimate Losers In Inquiry
From left: ILO director-general Guy Ryder, Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation CEO Nesbitt Hazelman, Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Joji Konrote and Fiji Trades Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony during the signing of the Geneva Accord in Switzerland.

Nemani Delaibatiki spoke on this issue in his My Say programme on FBC Television on Sunday night

Geneva may be far away from Fiji, but a decision that will be made there in November will have serious economic repercussions for our beloved nation.

It will either re-enforce the progress we have made so far or derail it.

That’s the decision of the International Labor Organization’s governing body.

It appears at the moment that the ILO is going by the submission of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, which has focused on some technicalities of what should have been a joint report on a tripartite basis by the Government, employers and the FTUC.

The ILO has an office in Suva and undoubtedly is kept updated regularly on what’s happening here. It should be clear to that office that our national interests are at stake here.

It’s the bigger picture and more important than a group of unionists trying to re-establish their waning influence and power in the Fijian labour movement and political landscape.

It appears that when they are not getting their way here, they run to Geneva for the ILO support. FTUC general secretary Felix Anthony is a member of the Governing Board of the ILO. So he has an advantage and can influence the proceedings.

When British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took on the National Union of Miners in 1984, the union executives did not run to Geneva and seek the help of the ILO Governing Body. They accepted the outcome of the fight.

Mrs Thatcher’s previous two predecessors pursued conciliation, but failed miserably. Mrs Thatcher decided not to accept the union nonsense and confronted the union. In the end she won and weakened the union’s power.

This is not the road we want to take either. In the history of the ILO, only 12 countries have been subjected to the Commission of Inquiry. They are Chile, Dominican Republic, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Liberia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Zimbabwe.

We cannot compare Fiji to some of these countries in terms of their human rights records.

A Commission of Inquiry threat that the ILO has been waving will have serious ramifications if it happens. It will bring back memories of the industrial unrest in the 1980s which eventually led to the downfall of the then Alliance government of the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

We do not want to go back to that dark period. An inquiry could lead to sanctions that will cripple our economy.

The FTUC appears bent on dragging us back. Mr Felix Anthony & Co say they are challenging the Government over certain provisions of the Employment Relations Promulgation Bill (2015) in the interests of the workers.  For them the contentious issues include the right to strike and the essential service industry.

These are issues that can be discussed around the table “in good faith” in the tripartite spirit. But Mr Anthony decided to pull out and table a separate report from what was supposed to be a joint report. In that joint report, the FTUC grievances were recognised and noted.

If he genuinely has the interests of the workers at heart, he will go for continuing dialogue. His confrontational approach to negotiations could in the long run hurt the workers more.

The impact of any sanctions placed on Fiji because of the current standoff will affect the workers not Mr Anthony. If our trade with other countries is seriously undermined because Fijian goods and cargo are blacklisted by unions sympathetic to Mr Anthony, it could lead to loss of jobs.

Workers will lose their jobs, not Mr Anthony.

He and other unionists are in a privileged position and enjoy comfortable remuneration packages that workers can only dream of.

Any instability or unrest always tests the confidence of investors and business leaders. Fiji has come a long way since the 1980s industrial unrest and the political upheaval that followed. Many people have suffered untold damage.

The general election last year marked a new beginning. On the industrial relations front, let’s give the tripartite forum a chance.

Too much is at stake for us to miss this opportunity.

We ignore it at our peril.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj


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