Cook Islands workers celebrate new labour legislation

The Employment relations Bill is one of the longest bills to be reviewed and tabled in Parliament since 1996. It is a result of outstanding and collective efforts of the Cook Islands Workers Association and non-governmental organisations and Chamber of Commerce in ensuring that modernised employment laws are put in place. The 1964 Cook Islands and Industrial and Labour Ordinance to combat exploitation and discrimination of workers rights and trade union rights has therefore been replaced by the new Bill. Although the new legislation does not reflect the establishment of trade unions, it does recognise the formation of workers' associations and their employers.

A major milestone has been achieved in the Cook Islands with the enactment in mid-December 2012 of the Cook Islands Employment Relations Act 2012. This milestone legislation affects both public and private sector employees and offers stronger clauses on the: Freedom of Association rights for employees and employers; collective agreements and individual agreements; discrimination, sexual and racial harassments and duress;  termination and redundancy; dispute resolution process and government-funded paid maternity leave based on the minimum wage of 6 weeks for women in the private sector. (Public secor workers are already covered).

The Cook Islands Workers' Association managed to secure funding through the PSI Asia Pacific Fund to implement wider community consultation on the Bill before its enactment.  This great achievement brings the CIWA National Executive to another level of legislation awareness to its members on the mainland Rarotonga and in the outer islands.  

The Cook Islands Workers Association President Mr Anthony Turua, its National Executive and members extended their appreciation and gratitude to PSI for support in providing funding for achieving the enactment of this new legislation, with special thanks to PSI Oceania Sub-regional Office for providing advice over the years, and to all affiliates in the region.