October 02, 2012

PM hopes for US scheme to stay

Publish date/time: 02/10/2012 [07:15]

The prime minister has revealed that as part of Fiji’s progress toward establishing parliamentary democracy, the government is reviewing current labour laws to ensure their compliance with the 34 International Labour Organization conventions that Fiji has ratified.

As only a few hours remain for Fiji to appear in the US government’s public hearing on whether exports from 39 Fiji companies should still have duty free access into America, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said the Employment Relations Advisory Board comprised of representatives from government, trade unions and employers is undertaking the review process.

Commodore Bainimarama said the government is committed to protecting all Fijian workers and will soon adopt Fiji’s first national minimum wage to ensure that they receive fair earnings.

He said it is also important for the employers, unions and employees to make submissions to the Constitution Commission.

He said the government seeks to ensure that unions can take collective action as directed by their member workers and are subject only to restrictions that are generally accepted to protect the public good.

The prime minister said the government also seeks to protect the rights of those workers who choose not to affiliate with unions.

Commodore Bainimarama said over the weekend that the unionists should stop using people for their own benefit.

He said about 75,000 people will be affected if Fiji is removed from the scheme.

Acting Solicitor General Sharvada Sharma is making the presentation on behalf of the government in the US.

If the decision goes against Fiji in Washington DC tomorrow, then it would stop us from benefitting from the US Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Scheme and put 15,000 jobs at risk through loss of exports.

Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) president Daniel Urai said the union should not be blamed as it did not bring up the decrees like the Essential National Industries Decree.

When asked about the job losses expected and whether FTUC is behind it, Urai said the government just has to remove the decrees that limits the rights of the workers and stops them from challenging the decree in any court of law.

Meanwhile, Fiji-US Business Council chairman David Voss said the 39 companies are concerned that their exports and workers will be greatly affected as there will be definite job losses.

Voss said the Fiji Trades Union Congress is behind this move as they want the decrees like the Essential National Industries Decree removed.

He questioned what purpose would this serve if many people lose their jobs when Fiji is removed from the scheme.

Story by: Vijay Narayan & Filipe Naikaso

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