Fiji - Essential National Industries Decree prevents trade unions functioning: ILO Mission

A 2014 report to the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) concludes that the Essential National Industries Decree 2011 (ENID) has made it impossible for trade unions to continue to function in the designated industries.

Among other things, the ENID:

  • Bans unions from representing workers in negotiating collective bargaining outcomes;
  • Sets high threshold (75 workers) for establishment of a bargaining unit, and limits validity of bargaining unit registration to only two years (although time limit for negotiating collective agreements is three years);
  • Voided existing collective agreements;
  • Bans overtime payments, including for weekend work, work on days off, and work on public holidays;
  • Removes minimum wages, terms and conditions of work in designated industries;
  • Bans all strikes, slowdowns, or any action that may negatively impact the employer;
  • Requires that all members, office bearers, officers and executives of the union shall be employees of the designated company.

The designated industries are all those considered vital to the national economy or gross domestic product, and to industries in which the Government has a majority and essential interest. These include the financial industry, the telecommunications industry, the civil aviation industry, the public utilities industry, municipal workers, the National Fire Authority and the timber industry.

The Fiji Public service Association (FPSA) reports having lost all of its members in the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority, Water Authority of Fiji, Airports Fiji Limited, National Fire Authority, Fiji Hardwood Corporation and Nasinu Town Council – amounting to more than 600 members. The union’s check-off facilities had initially been entirely removed for over 25,000 members and were only partially restored two months later.

In October 2014, the ILO sent a Direct Contact Mission to Fiji to investigate complaints made by national trade unions in relation to ENID.

Following extensive tripartite consultations, the Mission concluded that Fiji needs to take rapid action around rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Specifically, it found that the ENID had led to the deregistration of unions, the abrogation of collective agreements, a fear of job losses among employee representatives, a severe imbalance of power in collective bargaining processes, and the termination of court cases involving ENID companies on the basis that the ENID does not allow for judicial review.

It further reported that the bargaining units established under ENID “all referred to a general strategy of simply trying to maintain terms and conditions that had been previously agreed with the unions, while any changes proposed by the employer had to be accepted given their unequal force and capacity."

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