Inter-American Court Confirms Workers’ Right to Union Representation

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A key decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has re-affirmed that the rights of trade unions are protected in the Inter-American System, issuing an Advisory Opinion in response to a case brought by the Government of Panama in 2014.


In its amicus brief and oral testimony to the Court, the ITUC, supported by its regional organization TUCA, argued that freedom of association under the American Convention on Human Rights, should include not only the protection of individual workers but also their trade unions as organisations. The Court agreed, affirming the importance of unions as indispensable to defend the rights of workers, embedding protection under Article 8 of the Protocol to the American Convention for workers seeking justice from employers and governments.

The majority of the Court ruled in favour of the ITUC’s position, despite submissions from Argentina, Colombia and Guatemala, which would have deprived workers of this protection. The ITUC also argued that corporations do not have “legal person” standing, and the Court again accepted the ITUC’s arguments on this issue. Had the decision gone the other way, unions would not be able to challenge interference in or limitations to their activities, including the right to federate and confederate, or join international organisations, nor have standing to bring those claims.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said “This ruling is crucial in the Americas, with the highest human rights authority in the region re-affirming the importance of the role of trade unions at a time when workers’ human rights are under sustained attack in many countries. For many people, particularly in Central America, the right to union representation is a matter of life and death. It is a welcome sign that when so many employers in the Americas fail to respect the ILO, the eminent jurists of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have stood firm. Regional bodies such as this have an important role to play and we will continue our work to secure the respect for ILO standards at the regional level as well as through national legal processes and through UN and other global bodies.”

“The future of work is not determined by technology, we can shape it!”


DGILO Director General , Guy Ryder


Opening a conference on “Shaping the new world of work – the impacts of digitalisation and robotisation” organized by The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), ILO Director-General Guy Ryder discussed some of the major drivers of change, and their impact on the world of work. 

“The future of work is not determined by technology or by any other circumstance,” he said, “it is fundamentally going to be the result of what we, the actors of the world of work, decide to make it.” The major global drivers of change, such as technology but also demography, climate change and the greening of our economy, present both opportunities and challenges to which the policy response should promote social justice principles.

The Director-General underlined the social function of work, often ignored, but yet vital. “Today, there is too much unemployment and inequality, and we need to challenge some of the basic fundamentals of current labour market policy,” he concluded.

FTUC 46 Biennial Congress Election Results – Update

Dear Colleagues & Friends , 
Thank you for your participation at, and or well- wishes for the FTUC  46th  Biennial Delegates Congress on May 7th  In Nadi. The Congress elected the following officials to the respective Committees and positions as below as new office bearers for the new term 2016 – 2018:
  1.      FTUC National Executive Board 2016 – 2018

National President –                             Bro. Daniel Urai (retained)

Vice President –                                    Sis. Latileta Gaga (new)

Vice President –                                   Bro. Dixon Mar (new)

Vice President –                                   Sis. Teresa Ali (new)

National Secretary –                            Bro. Felix Anthony (retained)

Assistant National Secretary –           Bro. Rouhit Karan Singh (retained)

National Treasurer –                          Bro. Agni Deo Singh (retained)

Observers – One youth Committee rep,  One Women’s Committee rep

  1.    FTUC Women’s Committee 2016 – 2018

Chairperson –             Sis. Ajeshni Lal (Fiji Teachers Union) new

Vice Chairperson –     Sis Ilisabeta Copeland (National Union of Factory & Commercial Workers)new

Vice Chairperson –      Sis Teresia Ali( USP Permanently Paid & Intermediate & Junior Staff Union)

Secretary    –                Sis. Melia Vuki (retained)

Assistant Secretary –      Sis. Bonita Niumataiwalu (Federated Airline Staff Association) new

Treasurer –                      Sis. Sima Kumar (Fiji Teachers Union)-new

Committee Members:

Sis. Luse Madigibuli        –     (Fiji Maritime Workers Associations)

Sis. Latileta Gaga           –     (National Union of Factory and Commercial Workers)

Sis. Mereavi Vulawalu     –    (Federated Airline Staff Association)

Sis. Rukshana Bibi         –    (Fiji Local Government Officers Association)

Sis. Loraini Savou          –     (National Union of Hospitality, Catering & Tourism Industries Employees)

  1.    FTUC Youth Committee 2016 – 2018

Chairperson            –          Bro. Rajnesh Lingam (retained) – Fiji Teachers Union

Vice Chairperson    –          Bro. Emosi Fong (Staff Association of University of Fiji)

Vice President         –         Bro. Abdul Irsraaz Khan (Fiji Local Government Officers Association

Secretary     –                      Bro Alvin Prasad (retained) – National Union of Factory and Commercial Workers

Assistant Secretary –          Bro. Setareki Dawa (National Union of Workers)

Treasurer –                         Sis. Salote Nasemila (Federated Airline Staff Association)

Committee Members:

Bro. Semi Baleisuva – (National Union of Factory and Commercial Workers)

Sis. Shabina Verma – (Federated Airline Staff Association)

Bro. Munendra Mistry- (Fiji Teachers Union)

Sis. Elia Waqaliva – (National Union of Hospitality, Catering & Tourism Industries Employees)

Bro. Viasi Gukirewa – (National Union of Hospitality, Catering & Tourism Industries Employees)


In Solidarity

FTUC Secretariat


Human Trafficking and Forced Labor Victims File Lawsuit Against California-based Seafood Importers

 Source: Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Victims of human trafficking in the multi-billion dollar seafood industry supply chain,which stretches from seafood packing factories in Thailand to supermarkets in the United States, today filed suit in California federal court. The seven plaintiffs were recruited from their home villages in rural Cambodia to work at factories in Thailand producing shrimp and seafood for export to the United States.  Instead of the good jobs at good wages they were promised, the five men and two women became victims of human trafficking, forced labor, involuntary servitude, and peonage, according to attorneys at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP, Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP and Anthony DiCaprio who represent the villagers.

The defendants sell their shrimp and seafood to large U.S. customers like Walmart and include California-based Rubicon Resources, LLC, and an affiliate, Wales & Co. Universe Ltd, as well as Thai corporations Phatthana Seafood and S.S. Frozen Food.  The complaint states that the defendants were part of a joint venture that knowingly profited from trafficked labor in direct violation of both U.S. and international law.

“When they finally returned home, these men and women had nothing to show for their hard labor and their families were poorer than before,” said Agnieszka Fryszman, Cohen Milstein partner and lead attorney for the villagers.  “Fortunately, in the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act, Congress gave trafficked workers the tools they need to obtain justice when companies knowingly profit from forced labor in their supply chains.”  The United State Government Trafficking in Persons Report, human rights organizations and international organizations have long highlighted the problems of trafficking and forced labor at the Thai shrimp and seafood factories that are part of the multi-billion dollar seafood industry supply chain.

“What happened to me was wrong,” said Plaintiff Keo Ratha. “I filed this suit so companies would think twice before exploiting trafficked workers in the future and to help the workers who were exploited with me.”

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act authorizes victims of human trafficking to pursue a remedy against whoever knowingly benefits, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture which that person knew or should have known has engaged in an act of trafficking or forced labor.

In the case of the Cambodian villagers, each paid high recruitment fees to obtain jobs in Thailand. Several mortgaged family farmland and went deep into debt to finance the fees and travel costs, expenses they planned to repay with the promised wages.  But when they arrived at the Thai factory, the villagers learned that they would be paid less than promised and that their already meager wages would be further reduced by unexpected salary deductions for housing, fees, and other charges.

Furthermore, the men and women worked long hours in harsh conditions and were packed into crowded housing with inadequate sanitation facilities. When the villagers sought to leave the factory and return home, they were not permitted to do so. Instead, their passports were withheld and they were ordered to pay off the “fees they had incurred”—a condition made difficult, if not impossible, by the reduced pay and unexpected deductions.  For example, one plaintiff, Phan Sophea, stated he was unable to return home for his mother’s funeral because he could not afford to ransom his passport back.

Some of the workers did not make enough money to afford food, even when working more than eight hours a day six days a week.  For example, villager Yem Ban stated he was reduced to scavenging for fish along the beach and vegetables left in the fields after harvest.

When they were allowed to return home, the villagers had nothing to show for their hard labor or, worse, lost the farmland they had used as collateral to pay the job recruiters, driving their families deeper into poverty.  One villager, Phan Sophea, who lost his farmland, states that he and his family now often go hungry. Another, Sem Kosal, said he now is unable to pay school fees for his son and could not afford to buy medicine when his children were ill.

“Through this lawsuit, we hold accountable companies that allow human trafficking in their supply chain,” said Mary Ross of Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP.

A leader in international human rights litigation, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll’s Human Rights Practice Group has been at the forefront of human trafficking cases in the U.S.  Agnieszka Fryszman and Alysson Ouoba of Cohen Milstein are joined by co-counsel Dan Stormer and Mary Tanagho Ross of Hadsell Stormer & Renick, Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman and Anthony Dicaprio.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder assures support to Fiji tripartite partners for labour law reforms



The  Director General  International Labour Organisation , Mr Guy Ryder, reinforced through a strong message to the tripartite partners in Fiji of ILO’s  continued support to ongoing labour law reforms in Fiji.    This was the pledge made by the DG to the FTUC’s 46th Biennial Delegates Conference held in Nadi on May 7th 2016. For full video message  see

“As the voice and representative of workers in Fiji, the FTUC plays a vital role in defending and promoting the rights of workers, upholding international labour standards, particularly those relating to Freedom of Association, the Right to Organize and the Right to Bargain Collectively” , My Ryder said. He further added that  “It has taken several years of extensive social dialogue for the tripartite constituents to finally come to this successful conclusion and I am (he is) very proud of the role the ILO has played in helping to solve this entangled and prolonged conflict.”

The Director General  stated that the conflict and  an intense campaign for resolution and justice for Fiji workers was followed by  the tripartite mission to Suva in January of this year.  He added that it was the Report of that ILO Tripartite Mission, the Joint Implementation Report by Fiji’s tripartite constituents, and the adoption of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill of 2016 by Fiji’s Parliament, that the ILO’s Governing Body at this year’s March session decided not to refer the complaint against Fiji to a Commission of Inquiry. ”

He acknowledged  the struggles of the workers of the country and of unions, and commended the perseverance of the FTUC through its strong leadership towards a amicable solution to the impasse in Fiji.

Mr Ryder    further assured the 150 plus delegates and guests at the Nadi Conference  that the ILO’s Office in Suva, the  Regional Office in Bangkok as well as the Headquarters  in Geneva, will do all that the ILO  can to assist their constituents in Fiji in this regard.  His message was received with utmost enthusiasm  and  renewed the vigor  of the FTUC membership  in its pursuit of social justice through the ongoing labour law reforms in Fiji.

  • Ends




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The FTUC Biennial Conference held in Nadi on 7th May 2016 launched a campaign to raise the National Minimum Wage to $4 an hour. While the FTUC is mindful that the $4 Minimum wage will still peg workers below the poverty line, we believe that $4 is a decent starting point to work towards a Minimum Wage that is pegged above the poverty line. The FTUC estimates that the poverty line is around $4.50 an hour. We advocate that annual adjustments must be made to work towards that goal.

The Constitution of Fiji at Chapter 2, Section 33 clearly states “The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realization of the right of every person to work and to a just minimum wage.” The current minimum wage of $2.32 is grossly inadequate and condemns workers to extreme poverty. It is not a realistic starting point to progressively ensure a “just Minimum Wage” as the target is too far off and annual inflationary movements will further make it impossible to realize a minimum wage above the poverty line.

The situation is further compounded by the National Employment Center policy on providing employment for young people. The wage guideline set for attaches is $60 per week without any FNPF deductions, overtime payments or any other benefits applicable to these workers all in the name of creating employment. The reality is that in many workplaces, permanent employees are being replaced by these attaches at $60 per week. This has undermined the National Minimum wage and the minimum conditions set out in the Employment Relations Promulgation. What is happening in Fiji is that we are driving the wages downwards, a race to the bottom.

The current minimum wage of $2.32 means a weekly wage of $96.05 after FNPF deductions. Then we need to take 9% off that for VAT. This leaves the worker with $87.41 per week. A conservative 2015 estimate for Basic Needs Poverty Line is around $185.00 per week. This leaves a massive gap of about $97.59 per week.  As time goes on, our people get deeper and deeper into poverty and debt, yet we wonder why productivity is still low. It is no secret that happy workers are more productive and it is the right time to address this issue.

The FTUC notes the concerns of employers. We also note that some 15 years ago, the Unions called for minimum wages to be increased to the poverty line through the Wages Councils. We were promptly told by employers that the time was not right. The past Chairperson, Fr. Kevin Barr of the Wages Council also advocated the same and was told the same thing just 6 years ago. We are now again told the time is not right. Well, when will the time be right for workers in Fiji to earn a just Minimum Wage. It appears never.

The FTUC understands the plight of small businesses and is receptive to some concessions for this lot. However it disagrees that bigger businesses hide behind the small businesses to pay poverty wages and claim to be concerned about small businesses. This trick will no longer work. Threats of unemployment rising are mere threats and FTUC is confident that if workers earn more, economic activity will increase, which will in turn create demand and jobs. This will be good for businesses as well. Decent work is also about a just wage and conditions of employment and not merely any job.

We recall the promise that the Prime Minister made to the people to create a Just society and that no Fijian will be left behind. So far it’s only the workers who have been left behind and we call on Government to act with some determination to ensure a fair deal for workers. A $4 minimum wage is a good place to start.

Felix Anthony

FTUC National Secretary

Unions Unite


Unions Unite


It is ironic that Attar Singh should make allegations that FTUC is poaching members from his affiliates. Just a few months ago, Mr. Singh when he was unemployed poached 150 members from his former Telecom and Mining Union to form a new Union in Vatukoula mines so that he can remain employed. Yet he chooses to claim poaching by FTUC. Records are available at the Registrar of Trade Unions Office.

The facts are that FTUC wishes to unite all Unions and Workers in Fiji for a number of years now. Talks have taken place on a number of occasions.  However, Attar Singh has made demands that he be appointed Assistant General Secretary which cannot be accommodated. FTUC is a democratic Workers Organisation. He has chosen, as always to put his personal interest first before the larger interest of all workers in Fiji. He has also demanded that FTUC change its name just so that he can claim some sort of amalgamation between FTUC and FICTU. That can never happen.

Everyone in Fiji is aware that the Employment Relations Promulgation was the work of FTUC which at the time was objected to by Attar Singh. The recent restoration of workers and trade union rights was also the effort and work of FTUC. It is those rights that he can now work as a trade unionist if he wishes.

Attar Singh objected to the recent amendments to those labour laws as well. In light of the destructive and his choice of putting his personal interest before the interest of workers, FTUC has decided that it will approach workers directly to organise workers and unify the trade union movement.  FTUC will not waste time to satisfy Attar’s ego before uniting workers.

It is time Attar Singh tells the workers what he has achieved for them and why they need to remain loyal to him instead of simply objecting to everything and anything.  His so called FICTU is his creation after losing 3 successive FTUC elections for National Secretary. The man’s track record has been about dividing workers and still today religiously remains true to his record. It time to deliver to the workers of Fiji and that can only be done if workers are united. Indeed union means unity and one day we hope he understands this.

Women at Work Trends 2016


Women at Work Trends 2016

The Women at Work report provides the latest ILO data on women’s position in labour markets, examines the factors behind these trends and explores the policy drivers for transformative change.

Throughout their working lives, women continue to face significant obstacles in gaining access to decent jobs. Only marginal improvements have been achieved since the Fourth World Conference on Women of Beijing in 1995, leaving large gaps to be covered in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the United Nations in 2015. Inequality between women and men persists in global labour markets, in respect of opportunities, treatment and outcomes.

Over the last two decades, women’s significant progress in educational achievements has not translated into a comparable improvement in their position at work. In many regions in the world, in comparison to men, women are more likely to become and remain unemployed, have fewer chances to participate in the labour force and – when they do – often have to accept lower quality jobs. Progress in surmounting these obstacles has been slow and is limited to a few regions across the world. Even in many of those countries where gaps in labour force participation and employment have narrowed and where women are shifting away from contributing family work and moving to the services sector, the quality of women’s jobs remains a matter of concern.

The unequal distribution of unpaid care and household work between women and men and between families and the society is an important determinant of gender inequalities at work.

Statement by ILO Director-General

Getting to Equal by 2030, The Future is Now

Source: ILO News Room


“Let’s work together to achieve genuine gender equality and women’s empowerment in the world of work. Decent work for women brings decent lives for all,” says ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day , we affirm that when it comes to Getting to Equal by 2030, The Future is Now.

Last year the United Nations adopted a transformative agenda – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development . If the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be achieved permitting all to move forward together with fairness and justice, there must be readiness to act now on the commitments of the SDGs. What ultimately matters are the results and changes for the better in the lives of girls and boys, women and men everywhere.

They all stand to gain from gender equality as do families, enterprises and societies. The world of work is a privileged entry point to set in motion the transformations called for in the 2030 Agenda. Yet continuing and unacceptable gender gaps in the world of work persist and are captured with alarming clarity by a new ILO report, “Women at Work: Trends 2016 ”.

The report shows the enormous challenges women continue to face in finding and keeping decent jobs. It demonstrates the persistently unequal earning power of women and men. It lays out the imbalance between paid and unpaid work and between hours worked by each, and the difficulty women have in gaining access to adequate maternity protection and pensions.

It is also of serious concern that despite significant progress made by women over the past two decades in education, this has not translated into comparable improvements in their position at work.

These stubborn challenges raise important questions. How do we eliminate the gender pay gap in less than the 70 years it is estimated it will take at current rates of progress. Two generations is too long to wait to achieve pay equity.

Why is it taking so long to end discrimination and violence against women and girls; how do we get recognition of the value of unpaid care and domestic and other work and the consequences for women’s lack of access to quality work with social protection. What measures can ensure the full and effective participation of women at all levels of economic and public life?

As the ILO approaches its 100th anniversary in 2019, our Women at Work Centenary Initiative renews the Organization’s commitment to promote gender equality and to identify measures that will give new impetus to work in this domain, building on what has already worked. A global survey and research on the situation of women in the world of work will clearly identify aspirations and obstacles to guide innovative action.

Our actions must be immediate, effective and far-reaching. There is no time to waste. The 2030 Agenda is an opportunity to pool our efforts and develop coherent, mutually supporting policies for gender equality.

Let’s work together to achieve genuine gender equality and women’s empowerment in the world of work. Let us engage men and boys for women’s empowerment. Decent work for women brings decent lives for all.