Sunset over the Sheraton Hotel, Fiji. Photo: Annette Bouvain http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
Take action to support Fiji hotel workers’ union
On New Year’s Eve, hundreds of workers at Fiji’s Sheraton Hotel (part of the Starwood global hotel chain) walked off the job because managers had unilaterally withdrawn many of their benefits. Management agreed immediately to negotiate with the union concerned, and the workers went back to their jobs in time for the big celebrations that night. So far so ordinary, right?
But Fiji is a military dictatorship, with the sort of industrial relations and union laws you would expect – harshly repressive. Despite the return to work and the ongoing negotiations, the Government pronounced the dispute illegal, and promptly arrested the union’s leadership, including its General Secretary Dan Urai, who is also President of the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) which is the main thorn in the side of the dictatorship and last year set up a mass political party to take the military on when (or if) elections are ever held.
Dan’s no stranger to Fiji’s prison cells, but he and his colleagues were swiftly bailed on condition that there was no repeat of the strike action – a major interference in the industrial relations at the Sheraton. If management fail to come up with a satisfactory offer to settle the dispute in the time it takes the case to be tried (which could be months), the union is no longer in a position to strike, because its leaders will automatically go back to jail. The Fijian Government couldn’t offer clearer evidence that the right to strike has been comprehensively violated.
We understand that the hotel management had nothing to do with the Government’s actions against the National Union of Hospitality, Catering & Tourism Industries Employees. But given the restrictions on trade union action in Fiji, it’s now up to us to press management to settle the dispute with justice for the hotel workers. You can send global Starwood executives a message demanding that they bargain in good faith, settle the dispute fairly, and persuade the police to drop the charges against Dan Urai and his colleagues.
Meanwhile the global union movement continues to demand an ILO Commission of Enquiry into Fiji – the first step towards taking the regime to the International Criminal Court for breaches to fundamental human rights.