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OPINION: Unions, ILO Could Bring our Economy to its Knees if They Persist

This is a transcript of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say Programme on FBC Television’s 4 The Record last night In the second installment of My Say, I had warned members of
20 Jul 2015 12:12
OPINION: Unions, ILO Could Bring our Economy to its Knees  if They Persist
Fiji Trades Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony.

This is a transcript of Nemani Delaibatiki’s My Say Programme on FBC Television’s 4 The Record last night

In the second installment of My Say, I had warned members of the Tripartite partners in the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) about the importance of continuing dialogue on the proposed labour reforms.

Now the horse has bolted, so to speak. Those proposed reforms are now part of the Employment Relations Promulgation Amendment Act 2015 passed by Parliament last week.

Every opportunity was there to discuss the ERP Amendment Bill before it went to Parliament, to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights and back to Parliament, but the Fiji Trades Union (FTUC) Congress did not grab it.

Even the tripartite joint report to the International Labour Organisation’s Governing Body in Geneva should have provided an excellent platform to promote more dialogue.

But in the eleventh hour, the FTUC pulled out and decided to go it alone. It virtually shut the door to continuing discussions.

While it claims that it has legitimate reasons for doing what it did, it gave little room for Government and employers to move.

It claims that after Geneva it had written to the Government asking for dates to resume talks, but got no response.

In Government no one seems to know about it.

We have now come to this critical juncture in our quest for peaceful industrial relations climate.

We are stuck with an impasse. The Government and the employers on one side riding on the spirit and hope of the new Employment Relations Promulgation Amendment Act.

On the opposite side is the FTUC fuming because the new law does not contain what they wanted.

 

Where to from here?

The FTUC has said there is no point to talk now because Parliament has passed the new law.

Given its track record, the FTUC will continue its battle all the way to Geneva and use all its international connections to protest some aspects of the reforms.

Basically, it vehemently opposes the extension of the list of essential industries and provisions for arbitration to resolve disputes and the choice for workers to a join a trade union or a bargaining unit.

All these provisions are there for a purpose. They create an environment that facilitates the resolution of disputes and gives workers greater flexibility in the collective bargaining process.

Naturally, this may be seen as a threat to trade union solidarity. But workers must be allowed the opportunity to seek better pay and conditions instead of being bogged down by union bureaucracy and militancy.

Industrial relations have evolved over the years. Fiji needs to learn from other countries that have undergone this metamorphosis.

There is now a greater awareness and acceptance that the type of industrial relations that existed in the 1980s especially, is no longer compatible with the way we do business today.

Workplace conditions have improved significantly as more and more employers realise that in order to increase productivity, they need to invest in creating a worker friendly environment.

Legislation has been introduced to protect workers from exploitation and discrimination.

The issue of national wage rates must be seen in its proper perspectives. It’s unrealistic to compare us with countries that have larger economies. Everything is relative.

As far as the future is concerned, it’s now in the hands of the trade unions and ILO.

They can bring the economy down on its knees if they want to. And that could be a reality if the Commission of Inquiry comes to Fiji. God forbid that it happens.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 


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