THE inclusion of more sectors on the list of essential industries, bargaining units acting like trade unions, and workers in essential industries being denied the right to strike all contravene International Labour Organization core conventions, says Fiji Trades Union Congress national secretary Felix Anthony.
“We put Government on notice that FTUC will vigorously pursue these matters at the ILO,” he said in a statement issued yesterday.
“The responsibility of the outcome must be borne by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and his Government.”
Mr Anthony said the FTUC strongly refuted the A-G’s claim that the Employment Relations (Amendment) Act was compliant with core ILO conventions.
“The Act has serious shortcomings and is also a demonstration of Government not adhering to the Tripartite Agreement that it signed with the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation and FTUC and witnessed by the director general of ILO,” Mr Anthony said.
The Tripartite Agreement, he said, called for the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 to be the primary legislation governing labour management relations in the country.
“This Government amended the ERP and included in it parts of the Essential National Industries Decree that it claimed is repealed. This is a contradiction it conveniently ignored.
“The Government also undertook to ensure that all its labour laws would comply with ILO core conventions.
“The essential industries remain the same as in the ENI Decree which was subject of ILO committee of experts report urging Government to ensure that ‘essential industries’ are those that threaten the life, safety and health of people.
“If anything at all, the amendments in the Act expand the coverage of the definition of ‘essential services’ to all Government-owned enterprises which now includes PAFCO and FSC which were previously excluded.”
Mr Anthony said the Amendment Act allowed bargaining units to continue to exist and behave like unions.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had said the two issues raised by the ILO — freedom of association and collective bargaining had been addressed in the Employment Relations (Amendment) Bill.
“The first one has been addressed by way of saying that anybody that may be under an essential industry in any particular category has the right to join a union or they can have a collective bargaining unit,” he said.
“We have complied with the ILO convention in terms of freedom of association.”