|FIJI INTERVENTION: Tony Sheldon. Below: Felix Anthony, Rajeshwar Singh and Dan Urai.|
Australian trade unions are taking action against the illegal regime of Frank Bainimarama.
Employees of the Australian airline, Qantas, will today be asked to take industrial action, including work bans on Fiji-bound aircraft, after the military dictatorship targeted airline workers in the draft Vital National Industries Decree, smashing workplace rights across the sector.
The Transport Workers Union says members will look at halting or disrupting travel to and from Fijian routes, operated by Qantas-controlled Air Pacific and Qantas subsidiary Jetstar, unless military-government sanctioned violence and harassment, including physical bashings and threats, towards Fijian trade unionists ceases.
In a statement, TWU secretary, Tony Sheldon, says in recent months, the military junta have reduced freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, and "they now want to smash the basic-human right of getting a fair wage for employees and their families."
“The new decree will see wages drop significantly across the airline and sugar industry sector, as well as provide political strength to the regime’s friends through the destruction of workplace representation.
“Qantas and the Fijian government have a close relationship through their joint ownership of Fijian national carrier, Pacific Air, as well as through other business interests. It is also up to the Qantas board to denounce this decree, and protect its employees across the supply chain.”
The TWU says real wages and conditions would be driven down for all workers across the aviation industry, which has already seen Fijian pilots and engineers leave the country for better paid work.
“A Fijian baggage handler working for Qantas currently makes between about FJD$290 a week up to FJD$380 a week with overtime and penalties, based on a 50 to 55 hour week," says Sheldon. "The new regulation would see penalties gone, hard-fought for protections gone and that pay packet drop to about FJD$170 a week – that is less than AU$90.
“Fijian workers have only just received a 4 per cent pay-rise this year – their first since the Coup in 2006. This is despite Qantas’ record profits over that period, and a Fijian inflation rate of about Transport Workers’ Union 6 per cent per annum. The time is here for fulfilling Qantas’ obligations, not exploiting a system designed to attack the rights of families and individuals."
Fiji Trade Unions Council national secretary, Felix Anthony, Fiji Public Service Association
general secretary, Rajeshwar Singh, National Union of Hotel, Catering & Tourism Industry Employees general secretary, Dan Urai, are returning to Fiji over the coming week.
Sheldon says he fears for the safety of all three after state-sanctioned violence against individuals escalated in recent times.
“Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, needs to immediately communicate his grave concerns to the Fijian military administration and insist on the withdrawal of all recent Decrees that threaten human rights in this strategic neighbor.
"If these Decrees are not withdrawn and normal democratic rights restored, the Federal Government should impose further trade and financial sanctions against the Fijian administration. This may be the only language the perpetrators of violence within the Fijian administration understand. It's now time to act."
This weekend, Felix Anthony told media: “With the imposition of decrees that have substantially weakened unions in the public sector and government owned entities and the abrogation of the constitution. We have then seen the Decree Number 21 which was imposed just a few weeks ago where workers in the public sector have been totally disenfranchised of any rights at all, including the most fundamental rights.”
Read the Australian Council of Trade Unions' Fiji Resolutionhttp://www.mediafire.com/?97l97v8w06bpsg3