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Entries in Fiji (2)


The Tea Party should move to Fiji

If you thought the Tea Party was anti-Union, with an almost single minded focus on destroying workers' rights, spare a thought for workers in Fiji. The democratically elected government in Fiji was overthrown 5 years ago by Commodore Frank Bainimarama. Despite frequently promising new elections, Bainimarama has kept an increasingly tight grip over power in the country and has now passed the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree 2011. This nasty thing is even worse than the Wisconsin "Budget Repair" Bill:

  • All existing trade unions must re-register in order to continue their activities (art.6);
  • "All existing collective agreements" between employees and their employers are voided 60 days after the commencement of the decree (art.8);
  • Elections of trade union representatives are subject to government approval (art.10);
  • An employer may appeal to the government to cancel a representative's election if he or she at any time has "reliable objective information and evidence" that "at least 35% of workers" no longer support that representative (art.15); this enables the employer to cancel any "existing or current collective agreement" (art.17);
  • "If an employer has suffered operating losses for two consecutive fiscal years, or two years of actual or expected operating losses in a three year period, it shall have the immediate right to renegotiate all its existing collective agreements". If no agreement can be reached with employees, the employer then sends a proposal to the government, which may approve it as binding upon employees, replacing any necessity for an agreement (art.23);
  • Within "designated corporations", employees have no entitlement to overtime pay on Saturdays, Sundays or public holidays, unless granted by the employer (art.24);
  • Art.24 also abolishes the Wages Council's jurisdiction over "any 'designated corporation' or essential national indsutry";
  • "Disputes over discipline and discharge" are to be settled within the company, or by the government if ultimately unresolved, with no recourse to any court of law or any judicial institution (art.26);
  • "No job actions, strikes, sick outs, slowdowns or other financially or operationally harmful activities shall be permitted at any time for any reason". Strikes are permitted only if employees have been negotiating unsuccessfully for at least three years for a collective agreement with their employer, and if they thereupon provide twenty-eight days' advance notice of the strike to their employer and to the government, and if the government approves the requested strike. The employer may then lock out any striking workers and "unilaterally impose terms and conditions of employment". Any worker taking part in an unauthorised strike may face a sentence of up to five years' imprisonment, combined with a fine of up to $50,000. The government may order the end of any strike (or lockout) in "any essential national industry" at any time (art.27);
  • The decree prevails over any inconsistency with any existing law (art.28);
  • No court of law, tribunal or commission has any jurisdiction to examine the legality or validity of the decree or of any decision made by the government or by any employer in application thereof (art.30).

Every right that workers have ever successfully won is eliminated, strikes and negotiation are essentially impossible and employers have the right to impose any conditions they want on the Unions. That, dear Teabaggers, is a direct challenge - can you up the ante and completely destroy the working class before Fiji?


So this is Australia?

In the transit lounge in Fiji, just an hour from flying to Australia, it feels like we are already there. People with strong accents and thongs all around; Chicken Twisties and Cadbury Chocolate for sale at the kiosk; a branch of ANZ for currency exchange; Bryce Courtney books on the shelves of the bookshop; New Idea and Woman's Day on the magazine rack; and WheatBix, meat pies and lamingtons available at the breakfast joint. I feel culture shock coming on...