Preparations for ILO Fiji mission hits hitch
An International Labour Organisation mission will visit Fiji this month as concerns over a lack of workers' rights remain.
An International Labour Organisation mission will visit Fiji this month as concerns over a lack of worker's rights remain.
In 2012 Fiji was named alongside the likes of Argentina, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Peru as countries restricting freedom of association.
Fiji still contravenes ILO conventions and risks a Commission of Inquiry.
Koro Vaka'uta reports.
Fiji has continually failed to submit a required joint ILO implementation plan, with unions refusing to sign it. At the same time, preparations for the latest ILO mission have hit a hitch with the government replacing the Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Semi Koroilavesau with the Solicitor General as lead negotiator. The mission is seen as a last ditch effort to avoid a Commission of Inquiry which is the ILO's highest-level investigative procedure and is generally set up when a member is accused of committing serious violations and refuses to address them. The Fiji Trades Union Congress General Secretary Felix Anthony says they were on track towards resolving issues, but now there is uncertainty.
FELIX ANTHONY: We sought clarification from government on the number of issues that we had already reached agreement on and so far nothing has been forthcoming from the government so we are not looking forward to any further discussions with government on this issues. We will await the mission and present our submissions to the mission.
But Minister Semi Koroilavesau says he remains involved and the government simply decided that using the Employment Relations Advisory Board or ERAB would be the best way forward.
SEMI KOROILAVESAU: A decision was made by government that the normal platform for tripartite meetings is to be chaired by the chair of ERAB. I am not the chair of ERAB but the Solicitor-General is the chairman. I am not within the ERAB but the discussions of ERAB will come to me as the minister.
However, Mr Anthony holds concerns over the appropriateness of the move, saying his union will not meet with the Solicitor-General. The minister says the ILO will deal with the complex situation how they see fit.
But Biman Prasad of the parliamentary opposition says the government needs to accept responsibility.
BIMAN PRASAD: If they can give an undertaking to the ILO that these laws will be changed to comply with the ILO conventions then they may still give us more time but the fact remains that the ball is in Fiji's court and the government has to understand that. That it is a matter of law that they have imposed on the people of Fiji and on the workers.
Felix Anthony says the various parties are no closer to an agreement which is not good news as far as avoiding a Commission of Inquiry.
FELIX ANTHONY: I think the members of the governing body of ILO don't really have any stomach to accept any further excuses from Fiji as to why we cannot act on this matter.
The ILO says its officials have been in close communication with the government and preparations for the mission are going to plan.
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