August 02, 2011

Felix Anthony back in Fiji

...and eyes and ears will be glued to monitor that his every move is safe.
Fiji union boss back home safely
Updated August 1, 2011 16:47:17

Fiji's top trade unionist has returned home with no problems, despite angering the interim government.

Felix Anthony, the National Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, has been in Australia, New Zealand and Europe seeking support from overseas unions to fight alleged draconian new laws restricting union rights.

Fiji attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khayum last week accused him of disloyalty to the country, and potentially endangering Fiji's economy and threatening jobs.

But Mr Anthony says he had no problems when he landed at Nadi International Airport.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Felix Anthony, the National Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress
Listen here.

ANTHONY: Well everything was quite normal. There were no incidents whatsoever and yeah, I'm back home and I'm safe.

HILL: Were you expecting anything to happen to you at the airport?

ANTHONY: Well, I did, as you know there were a lot of rumours and I did expect the authorities to take some sort of action, but all is good so far.

HILL: Now while you were out overseas, you spoke to overseas trade unions in Australia, New Zealand, you went to Brussels and Geneva and some quite tough talk came out of the unions in New Zealand and Australia about taking action against Fiji and in Australia, the Transport Workers Union tried to institute some sort of action against airlines flying to Fiji, but they were actually stopped by an injunction. Were you disappointed the Transport Workers Union weren't able to take this action?

ANTHONY: Oh no, not quite. I think we have had lengthy discussions with the Transport Workers Union and, of course, the ACTU. We are continuing those discussions and the unions would decide in good time as to what and how actions would be taken if they indeed need to be taken.

HILL: Are you anticipating more attempts of taking action by the Australian and New Zealand unions in future?

ANTHONY: Well, we're in discussions still with the ACTU and the unions in Australia and New Zealand, and, of course, the International Trade Union Confederation and we all recognise the situation in Fiji remains serious, particularly so just last Friday. We've had a government make an announcement that it was going to withdraw the deduction of union subscriptions from public sector workers. This is a clear indication to us that the government continues its efforts to try and weaken unions in Fiji and if at all to decimate them altogether.

HILL: Your campaign overseas to get overseas unions involved in action against the interim Fiji government clearly stung the interim government in Suva and they've responded by suggesting that a lot of ordinary rank and file trade union members don't necessarily feel represented by trade union leaders, such as yourself and PSA leader, Rajeswar Singh, saying that by encouraging overseas unions to take these kind of actions, you're placing Fiji's economy and therefore their job in jeopardy. Do you think you really have the support of rank and file trade unions?

ANTHONY: Oh, I think the support is overwhelming. The claim made by government is totally misleading and, of course, they don't speak for workers in Fiji. In anything at all, they seem to be against the workers of Fiji by trying to weaken their workers organisations across the board. We have been assured by much of our membership of this continued support for unions and not only that, but I think what is being realised on the ground is that it is important that we have strong unions in Fiji.

HILL: You were a bit concerned about what might happen to you at the airport. Does the fact that the government hasn't taken any action against you as a result of your international campaign, does that perhaps undercut your idea that does it undercut what you were saying that the government is really taking strong action against unions, doesn't it make it appear that in fact there was nothing to worry about?

ANTHONY: Well, I wouldn't rush to any judgement right now. It's far too soon to sort of conclude anything right now. We are simply concentrating on the real issues on hand and that is the decrees that have been imposed on the workers, that greatly weaken the Public Sector Union and unions in other areas and we would want to concentrate on those issues to ensure that those rights are restored without delay.

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