Fijian police demand a seat at the bargaining table
Normally, the TUC would support the police wanting to have a say over terms and conditions. But the Fijian police don’t want to be at the negotiating table for their own wages, but for everyone else’s!
On Friday morning, unions at the Pacific Fishing Company (PAFCO) sat down to hammer out a new agreement with PAFCO management. An hour into the talks, the police arrived, and said that the talks were not to proceed without police officers being present. Unions refused to continue the negotiations under these bizarre conditions, and walked out.
This blatant attempt to interfere in free collective bargaining between unions and employers comes just days after the Fijian military dictatorship argued in the US Congress that they adhered to all the ILO core labour conventions that constitute fundamental human rights. And, even more ironically, it comes a month after the Fijian regime expelled an ILO mission sent to explore the regime’s failure to abide by those conventions – especially the ones covering freedom of association and free collective bargaining.
The Fijian military are thumbing their nose at – and making a fool of - an international community desperate to welcome any steps they are willing to take towards restoring democracy. It looks very much as if the Fijians are trying to eradicate free trade unionism before the 2014 deadline for free elections, so that today’s military dictators can ‘win’ a staged election and carry on as normal, with immunity for their crimes guaranteed.
But interventions like Friday’s, and the continuing harassment of trade unionists in the Fiji Trades Union Council demonstrate how unlikely it is that Fiji’s dictators will ever understand what freedom means.