Fijian government seeks to undermine collective bargaining

Rajeshwar Singh, General Secretary of Fiji's Public Service Association, spoke at the ILC 2019 about how the Fijian government has been ignoring ILO core labour standards

Here is his speech:

The Chairperson, Sir, as the Secretary-General of the Confederation of the Public Sector Unions in Fiji, and on behalf of PSI and ITF, I convey greetings from all the workers of Fiji. At the outset, allow me to thank the Director General of ILO for the great work in ensuring and reminding the Fiji government the importance ofrespecting and observing the ILO core Labour Standards.


Rajeshwar Singh, General Secretary of Fiji's Public Service Association, spoke on Convention 87 at the ILC 2019

ILC2019 - Rajeshwar Singh speaks about the case of Fiji

The violation of trade union rights are being perpetuated in all areas across the Fijian public service which has been brought under Essential Services to undermine their right to Collective Bargaining. Therefore, all disputes of interest are referred to the Arbitration Court which is than referred to the Minister for Employment, Productivity & Industrial Relations for a Compulsory Conference under Sections 191(S) and 191(T) which the Minister chairs to settle the disputes. It is ironical that a pay rise claim by public sector employees where the Minister is required to mediate has a clear conflict of interest but the ERA (Amendment) Act 2015 allows this process. The right to industrial action is not allowed in the public service by law which was enforced through ERA (Amendment) Act No.4 of 2015. This is contrary to the core labour standards of the ILO and the Fiji government’s approach to industrial relations remains obstructive and defiant.

Provisions of the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree have been incorporated into Employment Relations Act 2007 and this has taken away the Collective Bargaining rights of the workers. Airports and related services have been classified as essential services. For example, in March this year the Arbitration Court ordered the Fiji Airports Ltd's Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) to return to work and to end their protest. Soon after the decision of the Court the Executive Chairman of the Company suspended 22 ATC staff in absolute defiance of the Court Order. The provisions of the Arbitration Court requires immediate amendments to make it workable and a full time Chairman of the court be appointed to avoid backlogs which has been hibernating in the system for years. This is an urgent issue as justice delayed is justice denied.

The amended ENI decree 2014 as a transitional condition terminated the Collective Agreement and required negotiations between the ATC staff and Airports Fiji Ltd of a new contract between the parties. Till to date the ATC officers do not have a formal contract and none of them have seen the Company's HR Policy under which four (4) Licensed Air Traffic Controllers have been dismissed. The Government's failure to give compensatory guarantees for workers deprived of the right to strike has led to extreme dire outcomes for the workers.

The Job Evaluation Exercise (JEE) has been used to convert all tenured employees to individual contract appointments which has no correlation to convert tenured employees to compulsory contract appointments. The oppressive clauses in the fixed term individual contract is brutal.

(i) Renewal of the Contract is at the absolute discretion of the government,

(ii) Civil servants to agree irrevocably that non-renewal will not be challenged,

(iii) Renewal subject to government requiring services,

(iv) Government has the right to change the contract at any time,

The Confederation of the Public Sector Unions are trying from 2017 to register itself as a Federation under Section 147A of the Employment Relations (Amendment) Act and the Government is obligated under Articles 2,3 & 4 of Convention 87 to allow the workers their right to affiliate with the organization of their choosing. Section 147A of ERA (Amendment) Act is a window dressing and it must be amended.

The Confederation calls upon the government to:

a) Restore the jurisdictional power of the Public Service Commission as the central personnel authority of the public service thus empowering the Commission to negotiate claims and terms and conditions on behalf of all the government ministries for all public servants in uniformity and in accordance with the provisions set out in ERP 2007.

b) Immediately arrange an exploratory meeting with the Confederation of the Public Sector Unions to devise a workable model for a bi-partite system for mutual cooperation, respect, dialogue and collective bargaining.

c) The acceptance and adoption of the concept suggested above will clearly indicate the endorsement of the fundamental values of the relevant provisions of the 2013 Fiji Constitution, which includes guarantees for the rights and benefits of the workers and trade unions in addition to the human rights and social values contained in the Constitution.