Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Union gathering support for arrested Sheraton workers
On New Year's Eve, workers at the Sheraton Hotel in Fiji (owned by the global Starwood Group) went on strike against the removal of their staff benefits.
Management agreed to negotiate on the workers' grievances and the workers returned to work. This would be a normal industrial dispute, except that it is taking place in Fiji, where the military dictatorship that has run the country since a coup
in 2008 has persistently undermined and attacked workplace rights and trade union freedoms.
So, despite the fact that management and union were settling their differences together, and peacefully, the Fijian regime declared the strike illegal and arrested the leadership of the
union -- including the head of the National Union of Hospitality, Catering & Tourism Industries Employees, Dan Urai, who is also President of the Fiji Trades Union Congress.
Bail conditions for the arrested leaders include not repeating the "offence" of calling a strike, so that if negotiations do not resolve the dispute and the union decides to hold another strike before the case is heard (which could be months, as it often is in Fiji), their leaders will be carted off to jail forthwith.
"This behaviour by the Fijian regime is part of a pattern of harassment and violation of fundamental human and trade union rights which has led the International Labour Organisation to censor the regime-- which responded by turfing a high-level ILO mission out of the country.
"It's time to tell the Fijian regime that enough is enough, and the attacks on workers' rights and trade union freedoms have to stop."