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ANALYSIS: Why Trade Unionists Are Talking Strikes

They are at it again. They usually resurface with a lot of noise before a general election. These trade unions act as surrogates for various Opposition political parties. For example,
23 Sep 2017 12:19
ANALYSIS: Why Trade Unionists Are Talking Strikes
Fiji Trades Union Congress Felix Anthony

They are at it again. They usually resurface with a lot of noise before a general election.

These trade unions act as surrogates for various Opposition political parties. For example, in the 2014 general election, the secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress Felix Anthony became leader of the People’s Democratic Party. His election loss meant that union members did not necessarily follow him to PDP.

They were split among the National Federation Party, Fiji Labour Pary and FijiFirst Party. The same scenario is likely to be played out again in the 2018 general election.

Mr Anthony returned to his trade union job which pays much more than if he went into Parliament and earned $50,000 as a backbencher.

The trade unions’ battle is two-pronged.

First, their campaign for a strike is politically motivated to destablise Government and help the political parties they are aligned to, to gain traction on the election campaign trail.

Second, it’s a desperate attempt to remain relevant and secure their ultimate survival.

The unions do not like the civil service reforms, particularly the contracts, because they would replace the collective agreement which symbolises their core function and responsibilities.

This is the biggest fear of the Confederation of the Public Sector Unions – that when the reforms become complete the unions will become irrelevant.

Unions survive on membership fees. If civil servants stop paying their fees, the change will remove the source of revenue that pays for the lucrative six-figure salary packages and overseas travel of trade unionists.

The trade unions want to keep the collective agreement because it’s in the interest of the trade unionists, not of the civil servants.

The change gradually implemented, would see civil servants get a pay rise and contracted. With it will be a dispute resolution mechanism that is transparent and fair. An aggrieved civil servant can lodge a complaint against the employer (Ministry) without fear of victimisation.

The new system is performance-based. Promotions and pay rises will be decided on merit. It means those who work hard and produce will be appropriately compensated. Others who are lazy, drag their feet and fail to contribute positively will not benefit.

It’s the fairest way to move forward. It will increase productivity and improve service delivery to the people.

It does not make sense that civil servants will oppose it because the reforms will benefit those who work hard but have not been recognised and compensated by a system that was not fair and transparent.

The old system perpetuated a culture of inefficiency and a disconnect with the people.

But the trade unionists come from the old school. They want to hang on to the old way because it suits their lifestyle.

They want to relive the heydays of trade unionism, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when militant unions ruled with an iron fist. The strikes during this period caused many disruptions and huge losses to the economy.

The workers lost out too. The only ones who won were the trade unionists.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj



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