Fiji's Trade Union Congress still 'baffled' over arrests
The President of Fiji's Trade Union Congress says he is still baffled as to why he and five other unionists were arrested on New Year's Eve in Nadi.
The President of Fiji's Trade Union Congress says he has yet to receive any explanation as to why he and five other unionists were arrested over a strike at Nadi's Sheraton hotels on New Year's Eve.
Daniel Urai says he was arrested by a special team sent from Suva one week after the strike was settled.
But in a statement released late on Monday, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde, withdrew the charges, saying he is satisfied no offence was committed.
Daniel Urai told Jamie Tahana his version of what happened on New Year's Eve in Nadi.
DANIEL URAI: The workers had over the year been raising issues with the Sheraton management on privileges that have been removed without the management informing the workers of the removal of privileges and other working conditions. Because management was not listening to the plight of these workers they decided on New Year's Eve to hold a meeting in one of the villages to collectively discuss this issue. They did meet in the village, management came down to the village to try to resolve whatever the issues were. In fact, Sheraton sent in a human resources director from the head office based in Hong Kong to be part of the negotiations and things were settled withing four hours. One week after that the CIB department from the police headquarters in Suva travelled from Suva to Nadi to investigate the workers and six of us, of course, were taken into police custody.
JAMIE TAHANA: Now were you or the other unionists involved in organising this walkout?
DU: We were not involved at all.
JT: So then why were you and five other unionists arrested?
DU: That's the million dollar question. You see, under the labour laws in this country, if the union wants to go on strike it must follow certain procedures. In this case, the village had the meeting and the Minister of Labour sent a letter to the general secretary of the union to say that the union organised strike is illegal. I immediately replied to say that the union had not organised the strike and he should withdraw his notice that the strike was illegal.
JT: The Minister of Labour says the call to arrest you guys did not come from his office. Well, he sent the letter but he did not move to send the police in. So where would that directive have come from then?
DU: Fiji is a closely-knit community like all Pacific Islands are. What I was told, what I heard from the police among them in general - it probably needs to be confirmed - is that the attorney-general Aiyaz Khaiyum gave the order for us to be arrested as he was also the minister of tourism.
JT: Once in custody what was the line of questioning used? What happened?
DU: What they wanted was to find out whether the union was responsible for organising that. Everyone who was questioned told them that it was a matter that was organised by the land owner community of Denarau and the union was not involved and told them that when they came to the union the union said that if we had to undertake any action there were certain conditions under the law that had to be followed and the union wouldn't be able to partake in the strike because you did not follow the procedure. Really what they were looking for is someone to say that the union was responsible for this so that the general secretary could be charged.
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