26 Jan 2007

Fiji human rights lobbyists urge interim government to address employment policy

4:48 pm on 26 January 2007

Human rights activists in Fiji say the military-backed government can't forcibly retire public servants and needs to review its employment policy.

More than a thousand public servants stand to lose their jobs as the new administration moves to lower the retirement age from 60 to 55.

The new public service reforms minister, Poseci Bune, has said the move's necessary to assist thousands of tertiary and trade-qualified youngsters looking for work.

But the Fiji Human Rights Commission says the plan's discriminatory and goes against a High Court ruling in November based on the constitution.

The commission's director, Dr Shaista Shameem, says only a law can impose an age limit, but no such law exists.

"Our view has always been that you don't forcibly retire people at the other end of the scale just to cater for unemployment. There has to be an unemployment policy in place which looks at the entire employment issue from a paradigm shift point of view. And this is a good time to do that because we have an interim government in place and all of the policies are being reviewed."

Dr Shameem says the commission hopes to meet with the interim attorney general to discuss constitutional matters so the cabinet's informed before it decides on the compulsory retirement issue.