Rugby union internationals at Twickenham aren’t a common scene for trade union leafletting, but today is an exception. We’ll be there this afternoon ahead of the Fiji-England friendly, urging fans to give a bit of attention to the human and trade union rights abuses that have made Fiji’s military dictatorship a pariah of the Pacific. And in particular, to tweet #fairplayfiji to @FTUC1 in solidarity with the trade unions there. We’re also urging people to take an online action calling for a return to respect for the people of Fiji.
On Tuesday, we’ll do the same when the Fiji team play Gloucester, and our colleagues in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) will do the same next Saturdayu in Limerick.
Before anyone accuses us of dragging politics into sport (not that we’re asking for the match to be cancelled or Fiji to be boycotted), bear in mind that Fiji’s military rulers are so keen to control absolutely everything that they have put one of there own, Major Asieri Rokorua, in charge of the team as manager. It gets worse. Major Rokorua has overseen some of the most violent attacks on trade unionists in Fiji, including beatings in police custody and threats to their families.
Fiji ought to be a tropical paradise, but the military coup six years ago has left the economy devastated, the people impoverished (60% live below the poverty line) and its trade unions, media and religious groups heavily repressed. Fiji’s news media is tightly controlled, and even the Methodists are prevented from meeting.
Last month, we reported that the police were insisting on sitting in on any collective bargaining between managers and unions, and union leaders are regularly harassed, subject to arbitrary arrests, and beaten. Now the TUC and ICTU have joined the Fiji Trades Union Congress and the International Trade Union Confederation in issuing a statement calling for the restoration of democracy and fundamental human rights in Fiji.