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Global unions demand restoration of workers’ rights in Fiji
6 November 2012
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|Fiji cane worker: among those whose jobs could be affected [Photo: ftmsh, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]|
The ITF and global union federation Industriall have urged the Fijian authorities to reinstate labour rights in the country in the wake of the possible removal of the state from preferential access to US markets.
In a letter dated 2 November to Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Vorege Bainimarama, ITF general secretary David Cockroft and Industriall general secretary Jyrki Raina outlined their concerns relating to a hearing of the US trade representative on 2 October on the possible removal of Fiji from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). The system provides certain states with tariff reductions on goods they export to the US.
Cockroft and Raina reminded Bainimarama of the manufacturing sector’s vital role in the Fijian economy providing employment and generating wealth across many industries such as sugar and textiles. The federations represented many of the workers in those sectors, they said. However, trade union rights had been undermined through a series of decrees; representatives from the federations’ affiliated unions had been “physically beaten, arrested and detained without cause, unjustifiably charged with serious crimes and subjected to harassment”.
Removal from the GSP would have a severe impact on the Fijian economy, including on the jobs of the 335,000 workers that make up the Fijian labour force and the 20 per cent who rely on manufacturing. Other trading partners could explore similar measures. This was “too high a price to pay for the unwillingness of your regime to respect fundamental human and trade union rights.”
They stated: “We urge you to prioritise the interests of Fijian workers and trade unions and take the necessary steps to comply with the standards expected in the GSP programme [...].
“We further urge your government to fully restore to Fijian workers the rights enshrined in the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007, to withdraw the decrees that undermine these labour rights and to drop all charges against Fijian trade unionists incurred in the course of their business representing Fijian workers.”
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