Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) notes with concern the promulgation of the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree 2011.
The Decree is a direct threat to the rights of workers in designated industries says CCF CEO, Reverend Akuila Yabaki.
“By denying workers the right to strike, job actions, sick outs, slowdowns or other financially or operational activities at any time for any reason for designated corporations is a violation of the ILO Convention on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize of 1948 which Fiji ratified on April 17 2002 and CCF believes this section of the new Decree must be revisited and amended to comply with international requirements” stated Rev Yabaki.
“While CCF recognizes the importance of the aviation and tourism industries to the national economy, that is no excuse for the promulgation of laws which are stacked so heavily against the workers,” says Reverend Yabaki.
“CCF is deeply concerned that this Decree contains provisions which prevent the workers from challenging its legality in a court of law and fails to address fundamental principles of natural justice.”
Reverend Yabaki said an integral part of human rights was the respect for individuals, including their rights to desirable work and to join a trade union.
This Decree, he said, was heavily weighted against the workers. This in turn would inevitably lead to anxiety amongst the workers in the essential industries and could lead to decreased productivity and increased differences between the employer and employees.
The Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree 2011 does not specify which industries will be covered under the new law thus creating more uncertainty amongst the working population in the country.
However, CCF believes that the Decree has been designed specifically to address the aviation, hotel, tourism, sugar and mining industries.
The Decree allowed employers to seek a review of collective agreements after two consecutive years of losses in a three-year period or if it expected operating losses in a three-year period.
“If this is the case, workers should be allowed to renegotiate conditions if Companies post profits exceed expectations for two consecutive years in a three-year period,” he said.
Secondly, the Decree favors the employers in the event that bargaining agreements fail, as it outlines an option for the employer alone and not the bargaining units (employees) an opportunity to present an amended proposal on the collective agreement to the Minister.
According to Reverend Yabaki, “Principles of natural justice should allow for all parties redress if the first step fails.”
CCF believes that sustainable policy change can only succeed if there is dialogue and consultation with key stakeholders within the targeted industries which, in this case, includes the workers.