Fiji government not talking about planned anti-union decree
Updated June 29, 2011 17:04:37
Fiji's military regime has drawn up plans to amend union laws which, if enacted, will end union representation of workers in Fiji's national industries
Radio Australia is in possession of the decree, but Fiji's interim government has refused to confirm the plan.
Presenter: Melanie Arnost
Speakers: Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji's interim Attorney General; Attar Singh, Fiji Islands' Council of Trade Unions General Secretary; Grant Belchamber, Australian Council of Trade Unions' International Officer
ARNOST: The Employment Relations Amendment Decree 2011 has to be signed by the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.
It's directed at unions, workers and their representatives in Fiji's sugar and airline industries.
VOICE OVER: Effective decree on existing unions and active agreements.
Upon commencement of this decree, any union registered under the Employment Relations and Promulgation 2007 which represents workers employed by Critical
Corporations must re-register as a representative pursuant to this Decree.
Any and all office-bearers, officers, representatives, executives and members of a union which represents workers employed by Critical Corporations must, at all times, be employees of the Critical Corporation they represent.
ARNOST: The decree goes on to state if a union leader is no longer employed by that company... they aren't allowed to represent the workers either.
Any person who fails to comply with the decree could be fined up to fifty thousand dollars or face up to five years in jail.
Radio Australia approached Fiji's Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum seeking confirmation the decree would be enacted.
With all the changes that are being made, is one of them a decree on existing unions?
SAYED-KHAIYUM: Where did you hear this from?
ARNOST: I actually have the decree sitting in front of me
SAYED-KHAIYUM: Wow. Well good luck to you.
ARNOST: Did you want me to read it out?
SAYED-KHAIYUM: No, absolutely not because I don't comment on conjectures or innuendos or decrees that who knows whoever's written it
ARNOST: It's um...
SAYED-KHAIYUM: I'm not going to comment on something that I don't have in front of me
ARNOST: It's about to be signed by the President.
SAYED-KHAIYUM: I also understand that you as a professional journalist had told Sharon that this was not going to be asked.
ARNOST: Ok so... there's no knowledge of the degree to your... that you're aware of?
SAYED-KHAIYUM: You don't have any ethics. That is precisely what I am talking about.
ARNOST: So you're not aware?
SAYED-KHAIYUM: Just because I come from a tin-pot country according to you, you think you can break all the ethics. Is that what it is?
ARNOST: No, that's not what it is.
SAYED-KHAIYUM: Would you do the same to some other government minister in Australia?
ARNOST: yes, we would.
SAYED-KHAIYUM: Probably not. No, if you said to them you're not going to do X, Y and Z. You wouldn't.
ARNOST: Well... you know we would. Well we just would like to find out.
SAYED-KHAIYUM: You're being dishonest. Thank you very much. Bye.
ARNOST: The Attorney General's referring to emails exchanged between Radio Australia and Fiji's Ministry of Information Secretary Sharon Smith-Johns.
On Tuesday June 28, at 3 past 12pm, Ms Smith-Johns wrote:
VOICE OVER: Call the AG at 2:45pm Fiji time. He will only discuss the new judge and comments he made on Australia and New Zealand, can you stick to those two topics please, he only has 5 minutes he is fitting you in between meetings. All other issues push back to me and I will deal with them. Thanks, Sharon.
ARNOST: Radio Australia replied by thanking Ms Smith-johns but did not agree to any restrictions on the interview.
Fiji Islands' Council of Trade Unions General Secretary Attar Singh says if the proposed decree is true... it could have serious implications for unions and their representatives.
SINGH: From the stories we hear, the employees from certain industries - industries which are identified as critical - only employees of those industries will be eligible to become union officials. Which will mean outsiders and professional unionists will not be entitled to seek election. It is also rumoured that it might mean the level of union activity... union activity will also be quite restricted. So what that will effectively mean... that unions will no longer be effective in getting out there towards their members. And that of course will make union activity quite restrictive in the workplace and also at a national level.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions' International Officer Grant Belchamber has seen the decree.... he says it's just one among many the ACTU's concerned about.
BELCHAMBER: We've seen four or five decrees since the military government abrogated the Fiji constitution. And they have removed rights, bargaining rights, appeal rights, nullified collective agreements progressively in Fiji. There are two more decrees. We've seen drafts of these. The vital national industries decree of 2011 and another decree: Critical Industries in Financial Distress. It looks like these are on the way. These will effectively abolish trade unions in Fiji in all the significant sectors of the economy.
ARNOST: And what can union representatives or members in Fiji actually do to stop this?
BELCHAMBER: It's a very difficult situation, when they're subject to summary detainment and harassment and assault. Fiji is actually a signatory to ILO conventions - International Labour Organisation Conventions - so we can take up these issues and cases in international forums. And we will. We'll be monitoring this. We'll be looking at it and ACTU executive next month will consider the situation in Fiji further. And we'll be in touch with our counterparts in New Zealand and internationally - the union movement international - to consider developments.
June 30, 2011
Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum to muzzle union voices of sugar and airline sectors
The illegal and treasonous Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum is caught red-handed in attempting to muzzle the trade union caucus in Fiji using fancy legal foot-work a'la a Employment Relations Amendment Decree 2011.
The entertaining expose from Radio Australia in this latest interview is a telling indication that Khaiyum can only handle a controlled media environment and confirms that the regime's propaganda queen, Sharon Goebbel's makes that happen. On this occassion, The Goebbel's may get her knuckles rapped for daring to allow Khaiyum look stupid, and worse, get caught doing so.
This is extremely sad news for workers in the sugar and airline industries who are currently undergoing many challenges under illegal and treasonous duress.
More importantly the military regime, through this decree is clearly attempting to isolate renowned unionists such as Mahendra Chaudhry and Attar Singh. Regardless, the international labour community is watching and so too are the trade union partner bodies.
We saw this coming last year.