5 – No guarantee of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Fiji

The ITUC affiliate in Fiji is the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC).

In practice

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The Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC)23-07-2013

The Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC), the public entity that owns and manages the sugar mills, has completely refused to bargain with the union, has routinely violated the labour law and has ignored previous collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
agreements. Mill workers have not had a raise in seven years and many live in poverty. After the union filed its notice, the FSC announced a token wage increase that does not begin to address the over 40% decline in real wages for sugar mill workers over the last seven years.

FSC management has held meetings in all work stations in order to intimidate union members not to vote and even threatened that if they voted the FSC would turn their names over to the government – a military dictatorship since 2006. Since 23 July, when balloting started, police and military officers were also present at the polling sites to threaten and intimidate workers. The Attorney General, the architect of many repressive decrees that have stripped workers and citizens of their fundamental rights, has now issued threats to the union via the state-dominated press. The latest threat stated that the government will intervene to keep the mills running in the case of a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. This has been interpreted to mean that the military will be mobilised as replacement labour and/or that the government will place the sugar sector under the scope of the Essential National Industries (ENI) Decree.

Infringement of basic rights12-06-2012

On 12 June 2012, public authorities announced the withdrawal of Fiji TV’s broadcasting licence because it covered opposition comments, including those of the FTUC’s General Secretary, Felix Anthony.

On 21 September, a demonstration demanding “Just wages for all” was prohibited even though a valid permit had been obtained in advance.

Withdrawal of check-off facility09-05-2012

Parmesh Chand, the Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Commission, announced the withdrawal of the check-off check-off A system where union dues and fees are automatically deducted by the employer from the workers’ paychecks and then remitted to the respective union. system for trade union dues on 9 May 2012.

Travel bans imposed on union leaders25-09-2012

Daniel Urai, President of the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC), was prohibited from travelling to the United Kingdom on 6 March 2012. He can only travel to the outer islands of Fiji without the authorisation of the Public Prosecutor. On 7 May 2012, he was permitted to travel abroad on the condition that a deposit was paid. On 25 September 2012, he was prevented from flying to the World Labour Conference in Beijing. Security forces stopped him when he was about to board and only released him after the plane had left.

Anti-union discrimination31-01-2012
Widespread violations in sugar cane plantations31-12-2011

The Sugar Cane Growers Council was disbanded in 2009. With the dismantling of these various institutions, unions allege that the cane growers have been completely side-lined from the industry, over which the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC) now has total monopoly. Furthermore, since it is no longer obliged to cooperate on industry matters, it has begun to withhold vital information that growers are entitled to under the partnership provisions. Further, the National Farmers Union, as the largest trade union representing cane growers, was prevented from holding its general body meeting and branch annual general meetings in 2011. These meetings, which are generally held before the onset of the crushing season, are used as a forum to discuss problems farmers face as harvest gets underway. In recent months, they have been unable to hold any meetings at all. In 2010, dues deductions were also halted.

In 2010, the Labasa Cane Producers Association (LCPA), which covers cane growers in the Northern Division, was created. According to trade unions, the LCPA is not a representative institution of cane growers and is under the influence of the FSC. Trade unionists were also adament that they were not consulted about the formation of the LCPA. FTUC also reports that the military intimidated and threatened farmers into joining the LCPA - while at the same time the government instructed the FSC to stop dues deduction from NFU members. Farmers were also told that by joining the LCPA, they would get a higher price for the cane supplied to the FSC – which did not in fact materialise. The NFU also states that access to services has been restricted if the farmer is not a member of the LCPA.

The LCPA is established under the Industrial Organisations Act. Article 3.1(iii) of the LCPA constitution provides that officials of any other industrial association or political party cannot be office bearers of the LCPA – meaning that no trade union officer can ever be part of the governing body of the LCPA. Similar cane producer associations are planned but not yet established for the other cane growing regions. The Western Division is expected to be next.

Rights of civil aviation workers denied31-12-2011

The Essential National Industries Decree (ENID) has severely affected the membership base of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which represents cabin crew, baggage handlers and engineers. Roughly 90% of TWU members are employed by Air Pacific. Article 2 of the ENID defines a “bargaining unit bargaining unit A group of workers within a particular company, establishment, industry or occupation that constitutes an appropriate unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

See bargaining agent
” as a group of at least 75 workers employed by the same employer. However, only the cabin crew collectively number more than 75 workers.

All other groups fail to meet that threshold and are thus ineligible to form a new bargaining unit bargaining unit A group of workers within a particular company, establishment, industry or occupation that constitutes an appropriate unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

See bargaining agent
. These workers have individual contracts that were drafted and imposed by management. Dues deduction was also eliminated. With the elimination of the non-cabin crew members, the union lost 50% of its members overnight – roughly 250 workers. The cabin crew have a bargaining unit bargaining unit A group of workers within a particular company, establishment, industry or occupation that constitutes an appropriate unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

See bargaining agent
which was recognised by management. However, under Article 7 of the ENID, the leaders and staff of the TWU, who are not employed by Air Pacific, cannot represent the bargaining unit bargaining unit A group of workers within a particular company, establishment, industry or occupation that constitutes an appropriate unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

See bargaining agent
and engage in bargaining on their behalf. It is reported that members are under strong pressure to withdraw from the TWU. Within the 60 days provided in the ENID, Air Pacific imposed a new CBA which diluted the wages and took back previous gains with regard to overtime pay, meal allowances, clothing allowances, annual leave, sick leave, etc.

There are 78 pilots for Air Pacific, just over the minimum required to form a new bargaining unit bargaining unit A group of workers within a particular company, establishment, industry or occupation that constitutes an appropriate unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

See bargaining agent
under the ENID. The decree gave the parties 60 days to negotiate a new agreement. The union signed a contract with Air Pacific at 4am on 9 November after lengthy and difficult bargaining. The situation forced the union to accept major concessions in the new agreement. These include reductions in annual leave, sick leave and the elimination of long service leave. The contract also contains deep cuts to travel and meal allowances which reduce significantly the amount pilots are compensated. The union bargained with the company on the basis of the old numbers which reflected poor profitability. However, just after the agreements were signed between Air Pacific and the various bargaining units, Air Pacific announced greatly improved profits for the company for the previous year. The union believes that the timing of the profit results was intentional and that the union was intentionally misled. If the results had been released earlier, the arguments given for the application of the ENID at Air Pacific wouldn’t have held.

Air Pacific is also a major client of Air Terminal Services (ATS), which provides ground handling services at Nadi International Airport, including line maintenance, catering and cabin services, freight sales and handling. ATS is owned by the Government of Fiji (51%) and its employees (49%). Its workers are represented by the Federated Airlines Staff Association (FASA), which has a chair on the ATS Board.

Rajeshwar Singh, FTUC representative on the ATS Board, was removed from the board on 31 December, just days after being reappointed unanimously. The government claimed that he breached his fiduciary duty to the ATS board because of his meeting with Australian trade unionists urging a boycott boycott A collective refusal to buy or use the goods or services of an employer to express disapproval with its practices. Primary boycotts are used to put direct pressure on an employer, while a secondary boycott involves the refusal to deal with a neutral employer with the view of dissuading it from patronising the target employer. . Mr Singh does not deny the meeting but rejects the allegation that he called for a boycott boycott A collective refusal to buy or use the goods or services of an employer to express disapproval with its practices. Primary boycotts are used to put direct pressure on an employer, while a secondary boycott involves the refusal to deal with a neutral employer with the view of dissuading it from patronising the target employer. . FASA reported that permits to meet were routinely denied for no reasons, and in some cases in the past permits were granted and then revoked at the last minute once the union had taken on the costs of renting meeting space. They also believe that their telephones are monitored and are thus very circumspect about what they say.

Army keeps close control over sugar mills31-12-2011

Since 2009, sugar mills have been occupied by the military, which has assumed control over many aspects of their operations – including human resources. The Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union (FSGWU) reports that the military has assumed the power to discipline and fire workers. The President of the FSGWU - Ba Branch was beaten by military officers on 18 February 2011, along with Felix Anthony, the national secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC), and again on 22 June. In conjunction with the second attack on the president, he was suspended from work for two weeks without pay and was transferred from his job as a locomotive driver to that of a general employee in the track shop (which implied a drop in wages from USD4.17 to USD3.64 per hour). The military stated that the reason for the transfer was his status as a trade union leader.

The military interrogated the union president on a monthly basis in 2011, accusing him of sabotaging the Fijian sugar industry. He reported that the soldiers told him that “if you make one wrong move, we will kill you”. In June 2011, the Commissioner Western Division (a civilian post occupied by a Lieutenant-Colonel) announced at a meeting with mill workers that there is no longer a union representing mill workers. In November 2011, HR manager Subril Goundar told the union president that he would no longer recognise him as the representative of the workers. On several occasions, Mr Goundar called in workers to his office to discharge or discipline them; there was no investigation or any consultation with union representatives. The grievance machinery and progressive discipline machinery in the CBA, which remains in force, has been ignored. Workers who are caught talking to the union president have been threatened by management and the military with discipline or discharge.

Despite annual wages increases provided for in the CBA, Mr Khalil reports that there have been no wage increases for several years. Further, overtime provisions are routinely violated, with workers either not being paid the overtime premium (1.5-2x) or not being paid at all for overtime work. Indeed, the CBA is respected only in the breach. Cases have been filed over dismissals and other breaches of the CBA. However, these cases are slow to be processed, if ever. The Ministry, which receives the cases and provides mediation mediation A process halfway between conciliation and arbitration, in mediation a neutral third party assists the disputing parties in reaching a settlement to an industrial dispute by suggesting possible, non-binding solutions.

See arbitration, conciliation
, often delays action on the cases for months on end.

Essential Industries Decree undermines trade union movement 31-12-2011

The Essential Industries Decree of 2011, which currently covers the financial sector, telecommunications, civil aviation and public services, severely restricts trade union rights. On 13 September, ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Director General Juan Somavia denounced the decree, stating: “By going ahead with this Decree the government has demonstrated the same lack of concern for the views of the international community as it has for the rights and aspirations of its own people. That means reversing this and other restrictive labour decrees, a return to dialogue with trade unions and employers, an end to assaults on and harassment of trade unionists, and the immediate restoration of basic civil liberties.”

Memos surfaced in 2011 suggesting that the decree was written for the regime by a U.S.-based law firm, whose fees were paid for in part by Air Pacific, the Fijian national airline; 46% of its shares are also owned by the Australian air carrier Qantas.

Two articles of the Essential National Industries Decree in particular have devastated trade unions in the sectors concerned. First, Article 2 of the decree provides that the bargaining unit bargaining unit A group of workers within a particular company, establishment, industry or occupation that constitutes an appropriate unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

See bargaining agent
must consist of 75 or more members. In many cases, there are fewer than 75 workers in a job classification, eliminating the right of such workers to form a unit under the decree. Second, Article 7 requires that bargaining unit bargaining unit A group of workers within a particular company, establishment, industry or occupation that constitutes an appropriate unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

See bargaining agent
representatives be employees of the employer with whom they are bargaining. In most cases in Fiji, there is little leadership, institutional structure or expertise at the branch level, with union leadership and technical capacity centralised at the national union level. These people are employees of the union and not of any of the employers where their members are employed. Thus, the relationship between the union leadership and the rank and file is effectively severed by the decree. Those union representatives who attempt to support the bargaining efforts of inexperienced new bargaining units can face stiff penalties and prison terms under the law.

Employers in sectors not even covered by the decree have invoked it in order to justify elimination of dues deductions, unilateral changes to collective agreements and refusal to bargain.

Workers are resigning from unions en masse, as they either see no use in belonging to an institution that cannot effectively represent them, are threatened by management to leave the union, or resign out of a general fear that trade unionism is a dangerous undertaking in Fiji today. The decree also bans the automatic deduction of trade union dues from workers’ salaries (unless the employer agrees to do so). Some leaders predicted that their unions would not be able to hold on financially for too much longer unless the situation changed quickly.

A de facto ban on trade union activity31-12-2011

The Public Emergency Regulations (PER) of 2009 gave unchecked powers to the regime to ban much public assembly in Fiji. In 2011, the regime selectively denied requests for meetings, using the excuse that the meeting convenors were opposed to government policy. In other cases, the police revoked previously-awarded permission and then broke up the meetings.

In the most extreme case, the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) President, Daniel Urai, and Nitin Goundar, an organiser for the National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism Industries Employees (NUHCTIE), were arrested, detained and charged under the PER for meeting with trade unionists at the hotel where they worked to prepare for collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
. The case remains pending at year end, though the government has yet to produce the required disclosures – including the identity of the person or persons accusing the two of violating the PER (which is required in order to proceed with the case).

It remains unclear whether those charged under the PER will continue to be prosecuted following its repeal. Trade unionists reported that the government instituted a de facto ban on trade union meetings immediately following the visit of Guy Ryder, ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Executive Director of the Standards and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Sector, in August 2011. Essentially all requests are either denied or simply never acted upon before the date of the proposed meeting. Far from being just a nuisance, the ban has had far reaching implications on industrial relations industrial relations The individual and collective relations and dealings between workers and employers at the workplace, as well as the institutional interaction between unions, employers and also the government.

See social dialogue
(except in those very few cases where employers continued to cooperate with the unions in spite of the PER).

Public emergency regulations seriously infringe trade union freedom31-12-2010

Public emergency regulations adopted in December 2006 remain in place. They seriously infringe fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of assembly. In particular it allows military personnel to take up positions at the workplace which intimidates the workers. This was the case for example, during a restructuring at the Fiji Sugar Corporation.

These regulations also have a direct impact on the trade unions’ ability to freely organise their activities. A permit must be obtained to hold any trade union meeting or activity. On the 20 August, a police chief in Lautoka used these public emergency regulations to refuse authorisation to hold a trade union meeting of the sugar sector (Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union).

A job or a role in the trade union31-12-2010

Civil servants who occupy a position of responsibility within their trade union had to choose between their job and their role in the trade union. For example, the Minister of Education informed a high level member of the Department of Education who had been appointed as head of Second Level Education in Fiji but who was also Deputy General Secretary of the Fijian Teacher’s Union, that she would have to choose between her position within the Department or within the trade union. Trade union involvement can also have a bearing on the renewal of civil servants contracts.

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