Commodore Frank Bainimarama at the UN General Assembly in 2009. Photo UN/Devra Berkowitz.
Fiji: unions call for ILO Commission of Inquiry
The TUC has joined a global union call for an ILO Commission of Inquiry into Fiji because of its appalling record of worker rights abuses. It’s the first step towards taking Fiji’s military dictatorship to the International Criminal Court for breaching Fijian workers’ fundamental human rights.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has written to both Foreign Secretary William Hague and CBI Director-General John Cridland urging them to get their representatives on the ILO Governing Body to back the call at its meeting next month. The Government has already taken tough action against Fiji, backing the call to suspend it from the Commonwealth, and condemning attacks on trade unions. And the international employer organisation the CBI belongs to, the IOE, has also attacked the regime’s failings.
Since he seized power in a coup d’état in 2006, Commodore Bainimarama has systematically restricted or denied the right to freedom of association in law and practice. ILO supervisory mechanisms have detailed serious and systematic violations of the right to freedom of association as well as severe restrictions on labour rights in the public and private sectors. Fiji’s latest draft constitution, unveiled in September 2013, contains provisions which drastically restrict freedom of expression, publication and media as well as freedom of assembly and association, while imposing severe limitations on the political rights of its citizens.
The efforts by the ILO and social partners to engage in a constructive dialogue with the regime in order to find solutions to continual violations have failed. In September 2012, the regime even expelled an ILO mission sent to verify the numerous allegations made by Fijian workers. The regime has, so far, not allowed the mission to return.
Since the union complaint for a Commission of Inquiry was originally filed in June 2013, the Fijian Government has escalated its onslaught on the trade union movement. The 2013 observations of the Committee of Experts and the conclusions of the Committee on Application of Standards both amply demonstrate the extent of the violations and reflect a sense of exasperation with the regime.