(Picture : wikimedia)
The International Trades Union Congress is pressing for fair trade sugar in Fiji to be stripped of its label.
The ITUC which has just met in Brussels has placed Fiji among the world’s worst countries for workers on its Global Rights Index.
The Congress’ president Sharan Burrow told Sally Round the ITUC does not believe there will be free and fair elections in Fiji and it is appalled at the inaction of the Australian and New Zealand governments over the issue.
SHARAN BURROW: You have a situation here where the world knows that this government is a dictatorship, that it’s actually simply repressing people’s human rights but of course workers’ rights and the decrees that it’s initiated, the forcing of electoral rules that are in the interests of the government, there is no commitment to free and fair democratic elections and workers of course fear for their jobs when they choose to exercise demands for their own rights. So Fiji is not a country where workers can feel confident that they’ll be treated with respect, that they’ll be paid fair wages or indeed that their rights will be respected or that compliance mechanisms will work in the interests of justice.
SALLY ROUND: Yet the constitution does provide for protection for workers and there is quite a comprehensive Bill of Rights in this latest constitution that the government has produced, yet your index still rates Fiji very low.
SB: Well if you’re on the ground you know that this government has done everything possible to avoid having a free and fair democratic environment, whether it’s the elections, whether it’s the implementation of rights, whether it’s the fundamental capacity of workers to have freedom to even meet and talk about the issues that concern them. In order to register as a political party, to stand for elections, we’ve even seen worker representatives forced out of their union jobs. There’s no sense of independence, no sense of freedom. We will pursue a commission of inquiry at the ILO in to fundamental rights in Fiji.
SR: Why is Fiji the only Pacific island country on your index? Papua New Guinea for example has a huge labour force, why wasn’t PNG included?
SB: If the Pacific Island countries aren’t on the index it’s because we probably don’t have systematic data for them. While I don’t have the index in front of me there is still a huge difference between Fiji and the other island nations.
The rest of the interview can be retrieved through the following link: