|Daniel Urai and Felix Anthony. pic Digital Journal|
The American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) hearing against Fiji for breach of labor rights and standards ended its preliminary hearings yesterday.
The hearing was the result of a petition by the Fiji Trades Union Congress supported by regional and international trade union movement in response to the regime's hardline decrees.
|Regime delegation: 21 days deadline|
Sharma told the subcommittee which could ultimately decide to remove Fiji's duty free access to the U.S., the ENI decree was designed to 'protect jobs while safeguarding the fundamental rights of workers'.
He claimed the decree does not destroy the trade union movement, and cited worker-related reforms, including the implementation of what he said was a substantial income tax reduction for workers, a National Employment Centre, a soon-to-be-established National Minimum Wag, and a no-fault compensation scheme for injury at work.
Labour groups maintain the regime has undermined workers rights and those of Fiji citizens right across the board.
In an interview with Radio Australia, the United States trade union movement has said that suspending Fiji’s access to the US market is the last resort, at least not right away, and that they would prefer the interim government work with the authorities to improve workers rights.
Speaking to Radio Australia, American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations Trade Policy Specialist, Celeste Drake, said the trade union movement in the U.S. do not necessarily want Fiji to be punished with loss of preferential access to the US market because of its record on workers’ rights.
She said the onus is on the Fiji Govt saying that the massive job losses to Fijians will only occur “if the government has absolutely no intention of working with the US government to try and improve things for workers. So it’s really all in the Fijian government’s hands.”
FTUC national secretary Felix Anthony has also this week told media the regime cannot blame trade unions for the situation it's in saying, Frank Bainimarama was lobbied a number of times to improve workers' rights and conditions for citizens generally but chose to pursue ill-advised policies and protocols.
Anthony also gave some examples of the deteriorating conditions for workers in Fiji: “it would be safe to say that about 60% of the workers in the country actually live on the poverty line, or below the poverty line. This is something that has happened for the first time in the country.” He went on to say, “If we were to look at the decline in 'real' wages over the six years, a very conservative estimate would be a decline of 38%.”
Bainimarama was warned of the trade threat by the secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharyn Burrow, last year who advised via letter: "In the five years since you assumed power through extra-constitutional means, few steps have been taken to restore the right of Fiji Islanders to participate fully and freely in the governance of their own country. Rather than embracing the important role that civil society, human rights defenders, and trade unions play in good governance, your government has systematically repressed such groups. As international human rights, labor, and press organizations, we urge you to commit publicly to your international human rights obligations and take all necessary measures to protect human rights in Fiji”.