PM FIRM ON OZ THREAT
writer : RACHNA LAL
Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says trade unions in Australia and New Zealand will not sway Fiji’s reform programme.
Commodore Bainimarama told the Fiji Sun that the Government would stay committed to the reforms which he emphasised would take place.
His comments came following threats from the Australian Transport Workers Union to not refuel or load and unload Fiji flights.
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum believes local trade unionists namely Felix Anthony, Rajeshwar Singh, Daniel Urai, Parmod Rae and Attar Singh are behind this move and are attempting to cripple Fiji’s tourism industry.
He told the Fiji Sun that the question that needed to be asked was why Australian and New Zealand trade unions were threatening to take this action based on false information given by local trade unionists.
“The reality is, they are trying to undermine an economy but more so at the micro level, they are also trying to take away the livelihood of the woman who is weaving the basket in villages, who is making necklaces or handicrafts, the gardeners, the taxi drivers and the security guards,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
“We have these people who are supposed to be advocates but for their very selfish reasons and by telling lies to Australia and New Zealand trade unions, they are going to take away the livelihood of these Fijians.”
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum questioned who these local trade unionists were trying to serve.
“Are they serving the country, are they serving the workers, are they serving the Fijians or are they acting out of self-interest,” he said.
“They are portraying themselves as victims when they really aren’t; in fact the only people who will be the victims are the ordinary Fijians.”
While he believes the strike will not be fair for Fijians, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said at the same time it showed the character and the credibility of these people.
“It is unfortunate that trade unions in Australia and NZ are getting carried away by them,” he stated.
Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai were worker representatives on the FNPF board before the new board took over.
Meanwhile Tourism Fiji chief executive officer Josefa Tuamoto in a statement said any industrial action for any reason that adversely impacts tourism in Fiji would be devastating to the country and all of its citizens and not just tourism workers.
“Tourism is responsible for employing some 45,000 full-time equivalent jobs within the total Fijian workforce,” he said.
“The benefits derived from international visitation go far beyond this workforce and affect the day to day living of each and every Fijian man, woman and child.”
An Air Pacific spokesperson, Samisoni Pareti, said: “Air Pacific is aware of recent statements made by the Australian Transport Workers Union in relation to action that could potentially impact our operations, not to mention harm the Fijian economy and the welfare of the people of Fiji, many of which rely on the tourism industry for their livelihoods.
“Air Pacific have been in discussions with the TWU Fiji regarding the renegotiation of workplace contracts for the past five months with no progress to date.
“In the face of new competition and high fuel prices, it is imperative that Air Pacific restructures the company in order to enhance its competitiveness and its ability to return to profitability and prosperity that will benefit all Fijians.”
Do not get trapped in local trade unionists political agenda - PM
Publish date/time: 20/07/2011 [11:14]
The Prime Minister is calling on the Australian and NZ trade unions not to be trapped in the political agenda of some local trade unionists who are now pushing for trade union sanctions against Fiji.
Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said the fact remains that about 30 percent of Fiji’s working population is unionized.
He said the question also remains on whether the local trade unionists have sought the approval of their members in pushing for the trade union sanctions.
Commodore Bainimarama believes that the Fijian government is looking after the workers.
He said nothing much has changed as far as the restrictions are concerned but points out that several industry wages councils have approved pay increments for many industry workers.
Commodore Bainimarama said Australian Transport Workers Union’s Tony Sheldon should come to Fiji and speak to garment factory workers and those in the retail sector who have received pay increments through the Wages Councils.
He said the unions should not rely on hearsay.
Meanwhile, the NZ Council of Trade Unions has made it clear that it will not take any immediate action in relation to trade union sanctions.
The Union’s Peter Conway said they have spoken to Felix Anthony and others in NZ however the final decision on any action will be made by the NZ union members.
We have contacted Australian Transport Workers Union’s Tony Sheldon.
He has been in meetings and we have been informed that he will speak to us later.
Story by: Vijay Narayan