The FTUC remains steadfast in its struggle for the restoration of workers rights in Fiji. It is often forgotten that it was FTUC that negotiated with Governments and Employers representatives for the change in Labour Laws in Fiji after the so called Labour Reforms imposed in 1989 by the Rabuka interim Government. It was the FTUC representatives in Parliament that saw the passage of the Employment Relations Bill in Parliament in 2006 just prior to the Coup in December 2006. It was FTUC that persevered to ensure that the Bill which got stuck in the Senate on the day the Coup took place was implemented in 2007 as the ERP that all workers in Fiji today derive their rights from. The Tripartite partners (Government, FCEF and FTUC) agreed that a review of the ERP should be conducted after 5 years of it being in effect to address any shortcomings. This comprehensive review was conducted 2012 -2013 by the Tripartite partners. The implementation of this review is part of the Geneva Agreement.
It is unfortunate that many people who in the comfort of their homes and offices have no idea the work that FTUC has put in to improve the lives of working people. Yes there is still much to be achieved, more so after the draconian decrees since 2009. That work and struggle continues which is why FTUC has pursued the matter with ILO, ITUC, EU and many governments around the world.
Some believe that FTUC ought to only seek a Commission of Inquiry (COI) at the ILO and should not enter into any dialogue with Government. They believe that any dialogue is a sign of weakness. I disagree. Dialogue on the basis of equality and mutual respect is the only way to effectively resolve the impasse. Even if a COI is decided by ILO, the Tripartite partners will at some point have to enter into dialogue to resolve matters in dispute. The COI is not an end in self but a means to an end. It is to achieve a speedy resolution. The FTUC is focused on achieving the desired results and not to punish the Government or the Country.
We have had fruitful discussions with the new Minister for Labour last Saturday. Certain matters in dispute have been agreed to and we await their implementation. Further discussions are planned on outstanding issues. I have been warned by many that Government will not honor any agreement as it did not honor the Geneva Agreement. There is some merit in this advice. However, I am willing to enter into discussions with the new Minister and give him the opportunity to address the issues in dispute between Government and FTUC. We have agreed that the Geneva Agreement must be implemented. A COI will seek to do the same if appointed. Many talk of trade sanctions without having any understanding of how these happen. Many are ignorant enough to think a COI will solve all the problems and sanctions would be automatic. This is far from reality.
The FTUC will not be moved by professional critics and fly by night experts on these matters. Many of whom have never lifted a finger for workers in Fiji in the most difficult of times let alone do something that would have benefited workers in Fiji. These very people were nowhere to be seen or heard when Many including I were beaten up for what we stand for or when Daniel Urai and I were jailed for about 2 weeks for Trade Union activity in 2011. Yet they today stand on rooftops and make all the noise about what Trade Unions and in particular FTUC should do. They have become champions of workers’ overnight
In today’s Fiji where humour is essential to keep us all sane, we thank this lot for the entertainment and the fact that their blind hypocrisy is amusing.
The FTUC will persevere to achieve worker’s rights and dignity at work.