Military dictatorship in Fiji determined to crush unions

26.08.11 Urgent Action
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On September 2, Daniel Urai, general secretary of the IUF-affiliated Fijian National Union of Hospitality Catering and Tourism Industries Employees (NUHCTIE) and union organiser Nitin Goundra  will go on trial for “unlawful assembly”.  Their real “crime” is to have met and advised members about pending collective bargaining negotiations with hotel management. The case is just one in a long line of incidents of assault, harassment and intimidation of union leaders in Fiji over recent months.

Several times this year, Felix Anthony, general secretary of the Sugar Workers Union (also affiliated to IUF) was called to meetings with military officers where he and his family were threatened and harassed.  On one occasion he and two union officials were beaten for several hours after which all 3 needed medical attention.

On June 22, the president of the Fiji Sugar Workers, Mohammed Khalil was assaulted by two army officers. He was made to wallow in mud, was stomped on and dragged around in full view of his colleagues and other onlookers. During the beating the army offers demanded that he resign from the union. He did not resign.

Fiji has been under a military dictatorship since 2006. In 2009 the Public Emergency Regulation gave powers to the government to ban any and all assembly in Fiji. Specific articles of the regulation gave police sweeping authority to limit freedom of movement and to arrest and detail people. The military government has also issued several decrees specifically aimed at curtailing labour rights.

However, the anti-union actions really stared to gather pace on July 29 when the government promulgated the Essential Industries (Employment) Decree which the Fiji Trade Union Congress says 'effectively abolish all trade unions in Fiji”. On August 4 this was followed by another decree prohibiting check-off facilitates for all public sector workers.

Amnesty International has issued a public statement warning that the “Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree” would take away nearly all collective bargaining rights, severely curtail the right to strike, ban overtime payments and void existing collective agreements for workers in key sectors of the economy including sugar, aviation and tourism. The Decree also authorises employers in government-designated enterprises to dictate working conditions while denying their workers the right to a voice through independent unions”.

A global campaign has now been launched to demand the government repeals the July 29 decree and other anti-union measures and stops the intimidation and harassment of trade union officials. Click here to send a protest message to the Fijian authorities.

Protests will be organized next week at Fijian Embassies to coincide with the trial of Daniel Urai. Formal complaints have been lodged at the ILO about the attack on trade union rights and the Director General, Juan Somavia, has issued a statement of concern and in early August sent a high-level mission to investigate.