Don’t Hold Us To Ransom

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says the country simply cannot allow a relatively small group of trade unionists to hold the nation to ransom. He adds the unionists do it by
08 Nov 2015 09:23
Don’t Hold Us  To Ransom
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says the country simply cannot allow a relatively small group of trade unionists to hold the nation to ransom.

He adds the unionists do it by “misrepresenting us and our circumstances to the rest of the world and disrupt our industries and services.”

He was speaking at the Westpac Prime Minister’s Exporter of the Year Award at the Sheraton Fiji Resort, Denarau, Nadi, last night.

His comments came in the wake of the International Labour Organisation’s move to delay its decision on Fiji to March next year. The ILO’s Governing Body was to decide this month whether to send a Commission of Inquiry to Fiji or not after considering a Fijian tripartite. This report about labour reforms. An inquiry would be damaging to the economy.

Mr Bainimarama said last night: “We are a small and vulnerable nation that needs to protect certain vital arteries carrying the lifeblood of our economy. We are not a developed nation that can afford the luxury of our essential industries and services being disrupted.

“And whether it is our ports, airports or our national airline, all these things must be kept open at all times for the benefit of every Fijian.

“Some union leaders are going to the ILO claiming that this is a restriction on workers’ rights. But this is simply not the case.

“Employees or workers under the amended provisions have the right to join a union or not whether they are in the essential industries or not; employees in all sectors have the right to collective bargaining; employees in these sectors like others have the right to have their union dues deducted from the check off system.

“The only difference is that those in essential services need to give notice if they want to go on strike.

“In pursuing these rights unions and unionists have no right, however, to damage the jobs of other workers and damage the Fijian economy.

“The Government has a wider responsibility and that is to the nation as a whole. And that responsibility is to keep Fiji moving. To make sure our arteries aren’t blocked.

“I ask you to imagine a situation where no notices were required from those in the essential services? A situation in which the pilots of Fiji Airways might go on strike five minutes before a flight is to take off from LA or about to leave for Singapore? What would it do to the image of the country? What would it do to confidence in our transportation system? What would it do to the economy?, would you have confidence in transporting your export goods on Fiji Airways? What would it do to the tourism industry?

“I do not need to go into the details of how and who would be affected by such a situation apart from saying that it would have a catastrophic impact on our economy and on the jobs and lives of ordinary Fijians. The whole nation would suffer.

“We want to work with the workers and even organisations they may form or join – just as we are working with employers – to advance the position of everyone.

“But that focus must not be driven by personal or narrow sectorial interest it must be focused through a holistic perspective. It must be focused to advance Fiji and all Fijians.

“We cannot for example  have unionists going around asking employers to deduct the union dues without the workers giving their consent. Every worker has the freedom of choice.

“And everyone should understand that if we all played our part and focused on our long term goals we will be able to deliver lot more to everyone as we have done through the Budget that was delivered yesterday.

“So given the above and the fact that we now have amended our laws we are now compliant with the core ILO conventions and should not be the subject of an ILO commission of inquiry.

“Ladies and Gentlemen in approximately 3 week’s time, I will be in the ranks of those leading the charge at the World Climate Change Conference in Paris to get the industrial nations to finally wake up. To take the drastic measures that are needed to avert catastrophe for the island nations and low-lying areas of the world.

“So it is not a time for confrontation in Fiji and the Pacific. It is a time for unity to confront the external threats we face,” he said.



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