QANTAS is under pressure to explain why its Fijian affiliate Air Pacific appears to be actively supporting Fiji's military regime.Documents leaked to a blog site show Air Pacific, in which Qantas has a 46 per cent share, has paid a US legal firm $US24,000 to draft a government decree that limits union influence.
The document shows Air Pacific's chief executive David Pflieger commissioned the New York company Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy earlier this year.
The decree was revealed by the Fijian regime earlier this month and has proved deeply unpopular with local and international unions and human rights organisations, who say it violates international conventions.
Fiji's Trades Union Congress leader Felix Anthony says the revelations, leaked to the blog coupfourandahalf.com, appear to indicate the airline is working to support the regime, which seized power in a 2006 coup.
He said Qantas, as a major shareholder, had a responsibility to clarify Air Pacific's role in devising the decree.
"As a major shareholder, Qantas can't been seen to be condoning such behaviour of Air Pacific management and it needs to make its position clear," Mr Anthony said.
"Due to its connection, it has both a moral and a social responsibility to workers in Fiji to explain whether it will accept this behaviour or not, and if not, what it will do about it."
Qantas has not returned calls, but according to the Pacific Islands Report it has indicated it wants no involvement in the matter, saying it is for Air Pacific to respond to.
The new law, the Essential National Industries Employment Decree, severely limits a worker's ability to protest unfair conditions without a permit, and unions can be fined up to US$56,000 for encouraging any "illegal" behaviour.
The government argues the decree will make workplaces more efficient and will not exploit workers.
Mr Anthony said it was an "awful backwards step for the people" and showed "utter disrespect towards Fijian workers and their rights to collective bargaining".
"It's terribly sad, really, and the problem is we can't see an end to it," he said.
The regime led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama has taken a number of steps to curtail public freedoms since gaining power five years ago, abrogating the constitution, sacking the judiciary and censoring the local media.