Amnesty supporters and trade unionists protest at Fiji High Commission in 2011.
Amnesty International calls on Fiji to respect workers’ rights
One of the reasons the TUC works so closely with Amnesty International UK – we’re hoping to renew our memorandum of understanding at Congress next month – is because we have a reciprocal interest in each other’s work. Amnesty understands that workers’ rights are human rights, and we understand that if workers’ rights are being abused somewhere, it’s more than likely that lots of other people’s rights are being abused too. Take Fiji.
A new report from the global secretariat of Amnesty International – Fiji play fair: a human rights agenda – sets out a series of human rights abuses under the military dictatorship of Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama. These concern abuses of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association; torture; and the need for a stronger national legal framework of human rights.
These all affect trade unions in Fiji as well as women’s groups, LGBTI campaigners and churches. But the report also contains a section devoted to the need to uphold workers’ rights and Amnesty International has backed the call by the International Trade Union Confederation for an ILO commission of inquiry into Fiji for persistent breaches of ILO core conventions, especially Convention 87 and 98 which cover freedom of association, free collective bargaining and the right to strike.
Launching the report, Amnesty International drew attention to workers’ rights, saying:
“The government continues to violate workers’ rights by banning strike action for many industries and by intimidating and harassing trade union officials. In another case highlighted in the human rights agenda, trade union leaders Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai have been arrested and charged with multiple criminal offences over the past two years, including the more serious charges of sedition, for peacefully advocating for workers’ rights.”
The report draws attention to the restrictions on the political rights of trade unionists which have seen Felix have to stand down as General Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress to stand as the leader of the People’s Democratic Party that the trade unions themselves founded in 2013 to oppose the current military regime (and which Dan Urai is also rumoured to be likely to stand for – again, having had to stand down as President on the FTUC and General Secretary of the hotel workers’ union first.)
Those elections, scheduled for 17 September, are a key reason why the spotlight is shining again on Fiji, and why Amnesty International has issued its report. If they don’t lead to a swift change of direction, the UN Human Rights Council’s 29 October session will be examining Fiji’s Universal Periodic Review, and the ILO Governing Body in November is likely to back the union call for a Commission of Inquiry.