Felix Versus Riyaz

FTUC leader: It’s silly, irrelevant, a distraction and a waste of time ATS board chairman: Mr Felix Anthony should get his head checked A war of words erupted yesterday between
17 Jan 2018 12:09
Felix Versus Riyaz
Fiji Trades Union Congress General Secretary Felix Anthony (left) and Air Terminal Services Board Chairman Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

FTUC leader: It’s silly, irrelevant, a distraction and a waste of time

ATS board chairman: Mr Felix Anthony should get his head checked

A war of words erupted yesterday between two rival leaders in the Air Terminal Services row over the unaccounted  $5.78 million in dividend payout for workers.

Fiji Trades Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony said the  issue was “silly, irrelevant, a distraction and a waste of time” to talk about. Mr Anthony said it was a distraction, used to divert attention away from the real issues fought by a group of striking ATS workers.

Board chairman Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, strongly denied that the issue was raised as a distraction.

Mr Anthony, who organised a protest march in support of some ATS workers on strike on Saturday (January 13), said: “It’s none of his (Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s) business what people do with their money – that’s for the shareholders to raise.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “Mr Anthony should get his head checked because I have never told anyone or advised anyone about how to use the dividends.”

Mr Anthony said the issue of the money, first raised by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, was being used to mask the real reasons behind the dispute.

The Air Terminal Services Employee’s Trust (ATSET) claimed it did not receive any dividend payouts from 2007 to 2015.

However, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum revealed documents during a press conference that showed dividends had been paid to the trust’s account from 2005 to 2016.

Mr Anthony said: “We don’t want to get distracted by this silly stuff; that’s a distraction that Riyaz is trying to create.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the politicians claiming to support the workers – and Mr Anthony – had “conveniently shut up about the money.”

He accused Mr Anthony of being pretentious, adding: “All we said was we’ve given $5.78m in dividends and if Mr Finau (ATSET Secretary) says they did not get the money, we are asking: where is the money?

“Right from the start, the issue raised by the strikers and the unions, among all the issues they have been raising, has been the issue of workers not getting money.”

Viliame Finau, Secretary of ATSET, went on the defensive on Sunday when the documents were first revealed to the media in a press conference in Suva.

He told the Fiji Sun that a “sound” response could not be made until they were let back into their offices.

Fresh questions sent to Mr Finau yesterday remained unanswered when this edition went to press. But in a hastily called press conference in Nadi yesterday, Mr Finau said: “Contrary to the allegations, nothing is missing. We confirm that everything is accounted for and we just want the management to give us access to our office.”

The bitter dispute between management and the group of striking workers enters its 32nd day today. The workers have refused to sign a letter requiring them to admit that leaving their work stations to attend a trustee meeting on December 16 was an illegal walkout.

Air Terminal Services provides groundhandling for international flights at Nadi International Airport. Flights have continued as normal. ATS says 70 per cent of its staff are at work.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce


Fijisun Ad Space

Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.

By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.