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May 14, 2013


The FTUC has heard the cries of the Regime’s Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Dixon Seeto of their “so-called” concerns for workers in the tourism industry objecting to Trade Unions telling the world of the serious violations of workers’ rights here in Fiji. They have claimed that the campaign is going to hurt workers. This is hypocrisy at its highest level. The fact is both these gentlemen have no regard for workers but are concerned that businesses will suffer. 

I have not heard Mr. Seeto raising any concern about the thousands of construction workers who have lost their jobs due to the political unrest and lack of investment in the country. We have not heard both these gentlemen raising any concern about the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs in the civil service and government statutory bodies and even on the early retirement age that were imposed. We have not heard both these gentlemen raising concern at the many workers who have had to sign individual contracts at inferior conditions and pay to simply retain their jobs. 

This week, Telecom Fiji has unilaterally reduced salaries of customer services officers by between $8000 to $14000 per annum and these workers are made to sign individual contracts if they are to retain their jobs; a cut of more than 50 percent in some cases. More is to come for these workers. Workers at Air Pacific have had to accept inferior conditions and cuts in salaries or overtime rates and have had to work longer hours to retain their jobs on individual contracts. 

Workers in the Sugar Industry have not had a wage review in the last seven years and have seen their real wage decline by more than 40 percent. Majority of these workers work only five months a year and remain unemployed for the rest of the year and this is of no concern to Khaiyum or Seeto. These workers live in extreme poverty.

Civil servants no longer enjoy any job security and are forced into individual contracts as well. About 2000 workers in the Public Works Department have lost their jobs in January this year and we have not heard a murmur from Seeto or Khaiyum about their “love” for these workers. Hundreds of hotel workers were laid off after the last cyclone without any compensation and there was no concern raised for the welfare of these workers by both these gentlemen. The fact that the tourism industry has the highest number of casual workers does not seem to worry Seeto or his mates at all. Majority of workers in the tourism industry remain under the poverty line and this is again of no concern. Unemployment and underemployment is at its highest in the country. These and more are the doings of the current government and the coups that we have had. 

The fact is, the imposed decrees that take away workers’ rights including the ENI Decree are hurting the workers. Workers in Fiji are struggling to put food on the table. It is no wonder that we see an increase in our crime rates, suicides and other ills in our society. Employers are taking advantage of these decrees and Seeto knows this too well. Unions are trying to ensure that these rights are restored. Trade Union and Workers’ rights are Human Rights. Workers have the right to work with dignity and this means decent work and not just any form of employment where workers are trampled upon. 

The absence of democracy in Fiji is hurting poor people the most. We will not see employment opportunities in Fiji until we return to democracy. It is time that Khaiyum and Seeto tell the people the real cause of our problems and stop blaming Unions. The Tourism industry is no sacred cow that should continue to enjoy preferential treatment as if they are not part of Fiji.



Posted by Rusi Varani for SWM

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