Analysis | Opinion

Analysis: Transparency, Accountability Target of New Electoral Law

The declaration that the National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism Industries Employees election was null and void is unprecedented. It shows that the new electoral law, which stipulates that
14 Aug 2015 12:53
Analysis: Transparency, Accountability Target of New Electoral Law

The declaration that the National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism Industries Employees election was null and void is unprecedented.
It shows that the new electoral law, which stipulates that the Fijian Elections Office will supervise all trade union elections, is transparent, free and fair.
It is not being suggested for one moment that the union is guilty of committing an offence. Far from it.
What has happened is that a group of workers from Mana Island Resort and Vomo Island Resort who have had union fees deducted at source were not registered to vote.
They had provided their pay slips as evidence.
Another union member who has been contributing for the past 13 years turned up at the Hexagon Hotel polling station to find his name missing from the voter registry.
It is understood there were other cases. The Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, had no other choice, but to declare the election null and void.
He is bound by law to do it because this was one of the reasons why the law was changed to give trade union elections more transparency and accountability.
Any complaints and incidents would be investigated to ensure the credibility and integrity of the poll. Previously, there were concerns about how some of these elections were conducted. Before, unions held their own elections and report the outcome to the Ministry of Employment.
Now the Fijian Elections Office conducts all election, a change that was protested by the trade unions claiming it took away their rights.
NUHCTE’s general secretary Daniel Urai contested to retain the post. He was opposed by Mereani Qoro. Mr Urai has defended his union activities.
But since 2009, the union has not filed its annual returns to the Ministry of Employment until last Friday.
Official documents received by the ministry show that the union has 1500 members.
But those registered by the Fijian Elections Office were 1855. The figure would be higher if those who were not registered were added.
The financial difference is something like this: For 1855 members at $3 per deduction for 48 weeks amounts to $267,120. This represents about $60,000 more if it was worked out on the basis of 1500 members.
The discrepancy will no doubt be part of this investigation by FEO.
But the question that needs to be asked is why didn’t anyone in the Ministry of Employment query the union’s annual returns for six years?
It also raised the question of transparency and accountability.
Now the new law helps to address that.
Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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