Fiji’s military dictatorship is desperate for international recognition despite its undemocratic rule and the repression and harassment meted out to trade unions and others for the last six years. It’s been suspended from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum, and the EU has suspended aid to Fiji. So it’s no surprise they want their Prime Minister to become chair of the International Sugar Organisation (ISO) which brings together the countries that produce and consume most of the world’s sugar.
The question is: why is the ISO, whose rules require all members to abide by the international labour standards which Fiji is clearly in breach of, going to let the Fijians get just what they want at the annual meeting in London this week? And will you and your friends help us stop it happening by sending a message of protest to the ISO’s Executive Director, Dr Peter Baron?
The ISO is based in London’s Canary Wharf, and oversees the world sugar trade. Every government that joins has to abide by the 1992 International Sugar Agreement, which states in Article 29 that:
Members shall ensure that fair labour standards are maintained in their respective sugar industries and, as far as possible, shall endeavour to improve the standard of living of agricultural and industrial workers in the various branches of sugar production and of growers of sugar cane and sugar beet.
Fiji clearly doesn’t meet the first part of the Article, as it has been censured by the International Labour Organisation for breaching the ILO’s core labour conventions (the most recent iteration of the charge sheet is in a resolution adopted by the tripartite ILO Governing Body earlier this month), so Fiji is out of compliance with the ISO’s own rules.
When challenged about this by the International Union of Foodworkers – to which Fijian sugar unions belong – the ISO’s Executive Director said that Fiji’s military dictatorship had promised to restore democracy. But Dr Baron’s letter didn’t even mention the regime’s record on labour standards, presumably because he knows full well that it is lamentable!
The election will take place in secret, but as well as the IUF online action, we will be raising our concerns with the British Government and the European Union, as part of a global action in countries which belong to the ISO. And we won’t let the matter rest, as Fiji plan to host the 2013 ISO Conference. We must make sure they don’t!