The International Labour Organisation mission to Fiji welcomed
A Fiji election candidate, Attar Singh, welcomes an International Labour Organisation mission to Fiji, but is disappointed it will be after September's elections.
A Fiji election candidate and former trade unionist, Attar Singh, is welcoming the announcement of an International Labour Organisation mission to Fiji, but is disappointed it will be after September's elections.
The Direct Contacts Mission will visit in October to investigate claims of violations of workers rights following complaints laid by the Fiji Trades Union Congress.
Attar Singh says it's unfortunate the regime will only accept a mission after the general election and that's why he is running as a candidate.
ATTAR SINGH: The whole world knows that the unions in Fiji have been complaining about the worker act issues for many years. The ILO has already made several findings. They have asked the regime to bring about changes to the labour laws so that they become in conformity with the standards. Unfortunately the regime has remained adamant and has said they will only accept a mission after the elections in Fiji. Now, ILO of course has reluctantly agreed to that so we expect ILO to come in and talk about the issues on which they have already made decisions. It is welcome news. However, that being said, we as trade unionists have now resigned our union positions under the political party decree in Fiji. We're contesting the general elections and I have come in with an agenda of bringing about changes to these laws through the parliamentary process. I'm quite pleased that the party I'm with, the National Federation Party, has included in its manifesto (which was released last Monday) all of the amendments to the laws that we are seeking.
CHRISTOPHER GILBERT: Is that disappointing for you, that it's happening after the election?
AS: Absolutely, absolutely it's very disappointing. I think the ILO and international community should have been able to put more pressure on the regime to bring about the changes before this. And had that happened some of us would have probably stayed with the unions. But now that we saw no success in the process we had to take this option and do this. The ILO mission is welcome but I think by the time, the way things are going, it is possible there will be a new government in place and any new government in which NFP is part of, a key part of our agenda will be to bring about immediate changes to the laws.
CG: Should Frank Bainimarama and his party win the election he will then be part of a democratically elected government. What difference do you think that will make to the mission and I guess how that government handles their presence in the country?
AS: I think there'll be no changes. Bainimarama has been asked during his campaign what was his manifesto and what can the people expect from them. And his response to that sort of question was basically that they will continue very much whatever they're doing. So we cannot expect any changes in favour of workers by a Bainimarama government if they come into power. That is why for workers in Fiji, and trade unions, and everybody else, to make sure that Bainimarama is defeated at the polls so that we can bring about changes that we are seeking.
CG: Could the mission be turned around at the border again?
AS: Well, if it's Bainimarama regime.. no, I know I they have written to the ILO saying that a mission will be welcome after the elections but having said that I think it'll be rather unbecoming of the government to turn them around at the border. Particularly if they become a democratically elected government, which I don't see happening.
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