NEWS

RESPONSE: A-G Hits Back At Unions’ Accusations

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday highlighted some of the issues unionists have not been speaking about or conveniently omitting from their speeches. His comment comes after a Fiji Trades Union Congress-organised
22 Oct 2017 12:30
RESPONSE: A-G Hits Back At Unions’ Accusations
Attorney General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum during the press conference on October 21, 2017.Photo:Vilimoni Vaganalau.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday highlighted some of the issues unionists have not been speaking about or conveniently omitting from their speeches.

His comment comes after a Fiji Trades Union Congress-organised march and rally in Suva yesterday.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum pointed out a number of facts:

Out of the 28,000 civil servants, less than 500 turned up for the march organised by the FTUC;

There is no restriction on people to go on strike. The right to strike has been in the Employment Relations Act since 2007;

Previously, a 28-day strike notice had to be given before essential industry workers could go on strike;

This Government has reduced that to 14 days;

Government has not imposed any extra processes to make it harder for people to go on strikes;

The $2.68 minimum wage is for unskilled workers only;

Unions are not representing people in areas where people have been badly treated by employers;

Unions only focus on Government employees from whom they can be assured of subscription payments; and

Teachers and nurses have an automatic right of renewal in their contracts.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the FTUC was obfuscating in their attempt  to gain support.

He also stated that the march through Suva City yesterday was to be done for the civil servants who were not happy with the reforms, but instead was politicised.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum pointed out that the permit stated that workers wanted to protest in light of civil service reforms but others joined in along with them to forward their political agendas.

He was referring to People’s Democratic Party leader Lynda Tabuya, SODELPA youth branch officials, and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry, who is also the National Farmers Union General Secretary.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum pointed out that prior to the civil service reforms, 70 per cent of the civil servants were already on contracts and that nobody who is currently on tenure had to sign them.

“The choice is theirs,” he added.

He also hit out on politicians like Mr Chaudhry and Ms Tabuya, who personally contested – or were members of political parties during the 2014 General Election but suffered humiliating defeats.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also made reference to FTUC general secretary Felix Anthony who had stepped down from his trade union role to contest in 2014.

After his defeat, Mr Anthony rejoined the FTUC.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this was an attempt by them to re-launch their failed political careers.

“These people are now trying to resuscitate their political careers. They have been in political oblivion,” he said.

“They did not even make the five per cent. They are using the few hundred workers that turned up today on their backs to again launch their political careers.”

He pointed out that had the civil servants been staunchly opposed to the reforms, more people would have turned up and their absence was also an indication that majority of the workers were happy.

He reminded people that there were widespread public consultations before the minimum wage was implemented.

“The unions are feeling left out because, for the first time, a Government through its own volition took the consultations to the people without going through the Unions,” he added.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum revealed what people in some other sectors were receiving.

He said:

Foremen on job sites are getting $9 to $11 an hour;

Bricklayers are getting up to $9 an hour;

Electricians are getting $12 an hour;

Welders in Suva are getting $16 an hour;

“The minimum wage is for unskilled people. It’s for the unskilled workforce,” he reiterated.

Edited by Rosi Doviverata

Feedback:  sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj



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