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Fiji's junta condemned over rights by ILO

The UN'sInternational Labour Organisation (ILO) this week issued a strong condemnation of Fiji'smilitary Junta over severe violations of labour rights (see pages 809-847).

The ILO's Committee on Freedom of Associationdescribed the situation there as "extremely serious" and requiringurgent attention. The ruling follows thearrests of Daniel Urai, President of the national trade union centre FTUC on29 October and Felix Anthony, the organisation's General Secretary, on 5November.  Worker representatives havealso been subjected to a campaign of harassment, intimidation and physicalbeatings.

"Fiji's military rulers are turning the country intoan absolute dictatorship, and seem determined to destroy the trade unions aspart of their strategy to crush any dissent and eliminate the legitimate voiceof civil society," said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.  "The rulers must turn back from thisdestructive path, and allow Fiji to return to democracy."

The arrests of Urai and Anthony and the travel bansplaced on them – in Anthony's case despite no charges being laid against him - are due to union opposition to a recent"essential services decree" which eliminates the right to trade unionrepresentation for a large part of Fiji's workforce. The decree takes away collective bargaining rights for many workers,imposes heavy restrictions on those elected to union leadership positions andremoves the right to strike and minimum wages for all the sectors it covers.

Fijian unions have since reported further acts of repression and harassment, including police raids on workplaces where union leaders are trying to negotiate with employers.

"The ITUC and its international trade union partnerswill be ramping up action against the Fiji junta's plan to destroy workers'rights, and is calling on all governments to put maximum pressure on themilitary rulers," said Burrow.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions and nationalemployer group ACCI have jointly condemned the junta's actions, and trade unionrepresentatives at this week's ILO Governing Body meeting have issued their ownstrong condemnation through the ILO's Workers' Group.

Owen Tudor

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