June 26, 2013

ILO delegation could try visiting Fiji again

Updated 25 June 2013, 17:32 AEST

The International Labour Organisation is being asked to send a fact finding mission to Fiji before the end of October.

A previous mission last year was kicked out of the country after only a day.

A recent meeting of the UN organisation's Committee of the Application of Standards is also recommending to the ILO's government body that the coup installed military government be asked to set up an independent investigation into allegations that union officials in Fiji have been assaulted.

Felix Anthony, general secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, tells Bruce Hill what decisions came out of the meeting in Geneva.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Felix Anthony, general secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress

ANTHONY: The committee on the application of standards extensively considered the Fiji situation with the workers group, the employers group and government stating their concern. And the concern on Fiji was unanimous, and the committee on the application of standards has arrived at a report to say that the government of Fiji should allow the contacts mission back into the country before October of this year so that a report can be made to the governing body of the ILO in October. The second point is that the undertaking that the government had given to the ILO that it would respect all labour standards. The committee has asked government to honour its commitment and to review all labour legislation, including the decrees to bring them in conformity with the ILO conventions. And of course thirdly, to instigate an investigation into all the allegations of assault and intimidation of union representatives in the country and to advise ILO as to steps that have been taken. And what they're calling for is prosecution of people who have been responsible for these acts.

HILL: Can the ILO investigate these alleged assaults that took place in Fiji? If Fiji's a sovereign country, can a United Nations body carry out these sort of investigations?

ANTHONY: No, it asked the government to put in place an independent investigation itself to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

HILL: Well the report goes to the main governing body of the ILO in October, is anything likely to come out of that or is this just going to be more committees and more reports?

ANTHONY: No the workers group at the ILO has already submitted that there should be no action taken by the government of Fiji to address the concerns that have been raised, then the October session would consider a commission of inquiry into Fiji. So that's the next step that goes up. We're hoping that the government of Fiji will honour its commitment and take action.

HILL: At this Geneva meeting of the standards committee there was a curious incident involving the Fiji delegation. There were allegations from some of the union people there that they were attempting to film you while you were giving your speech, but then the Fiji government turned around later on that day and said no, the ILO has apologised to us for these false allegations. You were actually speaking there, from your perspective what actually happened?

ANTHONY: Well I think there's absolutely no doubt that one of the delegates from the government side had actually a camera was taking shots of the proceedings that were going on. I was speaking of course, I did not see him taking shots of me as I was speaking. However I was stopped midway by the chair and it was brought to my attention that the government representative was filming me as I was speaking. And the government representative immediately apologised to the chair, and basically apologised for that and put the camera away. Then I was allowed to continue with my speech until the security officers came and confiscated the camera. And of course in the meantime I'm told that the shots that were taken were deleted.

HILL: Told by who?

ANTHONY: By those present at the meeting.

HILL: So you're suggesting that they were filming you but then subsequently before the camera was actually confiscated they had time to delete all the shots and video of you from their camera?

ANTHONY: That is apparently what has happened. Of course I cannot be sure as I said, but I did not see what they were doing until it was brought to my attention as I was speaking.

HILL: Did you feel intimidated by their actions at all while you were up there speaking in Geneva?

ANTHONY: I'm somewhat used to being intimidated by this government, and that's quite normal. So I don't feel intimidated anymore by anyone in government here.

No comments: