School First Ahead Of March, A-G Urges Teachers

The Minster for Education Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has urged teachers not to follow a call made by one of their unions to join a protest march in Nadi today. In a
13 Jan 2018 10:53
School First Ahead Of March, A-G Urges Teachers
Minister For Education Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during the press conference on January 11, 2018 . Photo: DEPTFO

The Minster for Education Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has urged teachers not to follow a call made by one of their unions to join a protest march in Nadi today.

In a widely-circulated memo the Fiji Teachers Union general secretary Agni Deo Singh said the Fiji Trades Union Congress had requested for 300 teachers to support the march. This has been called by the congress in support of some striking Air Terminal Services workers.

But, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the call made in the memo for teachers to march so close to the start of the new school term was “abysmal and irresponsible”.

“I urge all teachers to stay away from people who want to use you, let’s focus on the education system and the education of our children,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“I urge them (teachers) to look at the bigger picture and do not get caught up in the politicisations of a matter in which, as you know, the Honorable Minister for Employment has already said from the beginning that the walkout by the Air Terminal Services staff was illegal.”

Mr Singh said the march was “legal” and he “expected all workers, family and friends” to join in. He said buses would be hired to transport teachers from all western towns to attend the march.

FTUC organised the protest march in support of aroung 200 ATS workers embroiled in a near month-long standoff with management.

Citing the recent Census results that showed a Fijian population dominated by a youthful make-up, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “These are very young people we are trying to nurture and give a right learning environment.

“Then we have people using these unfortunate workers, giving them false refuge, for their own political or personal gain and agenda.

“I would urge all teachers to please look at the reforms they’ve had, some of them have had enormous pay rises. They need to focus on the fact that school starts on Monday.”

The FTUC was granted a permit by the Fiji Police Force to march today, but under some conditions.

Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho held a meeting with senior western officers preparing to provide security at the march.

An elite police unit is ready for deployment should any untoward incident occur at the march, the Police Commissioner confirmed to the Fiji Sun.

In Suva on Thursday, the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) presented a report claiming serious breaches had occurred at the airport allegedly caused by temporary workers.

The report was never independently verified.

“It is quite tragic that a supposed employee grievance is now being handled by a political party,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“Of course, everybody knows that this is an election year and it will get escalated at the political level and we will actually get more into the space of fiction as opposed to facts.

“It’s not a lockout like The Fiji Times or anybody else claims – It was actually a strike. If you are currently working and you walk-off your jobs for three hours, it is a strike. People have the right to strike, which is what we have continuously said, but you have to follow the process.”

The Federated Airlines Staff Association (FASA) granted the party permission to speak on their behalf, according to the newly-appointed SODELPA candidate Lynda Tabuya.

Edited by Percy Kean

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