Denial of Democratic space; Defeats the spirit of Social Dialogue in FIJI
On 1st of May 2019, International Labour Day; Felix Anthony National Secretary of Fiji Trade Union Congress [FTUC] is taken into custody by Police while he is at a discussion with the Minister of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations and ILO representative at the ministry.
On the eve of the ADB’s 52nd Annual Meeting is taking place in Nadi, Fiji which is said to be the most a significant historic gathering of international delegations in a South Pacific Island. Emphasising the value of social dialogue; ADB President Takehiko Nakao expressed hope to engage the civil society stakeholders extensively as consultants in designing and implementation projects funded by the bank for greater transparency and accountability.
President Nakao stressed the importance of the traditional Fijian storytelling and social dialogue process “TALONOA” as a useful tool for social partners to put in to practice to share the benefits of development with all. In his opening remarks to the Civil Society and Trade Union representatives, ADB President Takehiko Nakao thanked the civil society organisations for their engagement and participation in sharing specialised knowledge with rich local expertise in improving banks efforts to improve the quality of life of people in Asia.
“The parties had just adjourned from the Labour minister's office to a neighbouring conference room to wait for editing of the joint statement when the police arrived and arrested Bro Felix Anthony in the presence of the ILO Director for South Pacific, and the employer representative my colleague and me,” says: Attar Singh Asst. General Secretary of FTUC.
The meetings held amongst tripartite partners over few days were about reaching a position on the six critical issues concerning the labour raised by FTUC. We came very close to signing a joint statement which outlined the processes to be pursued to resolve them. The problems related to labour law review, right to strike and minimum wage fixing amongst others, Attar points out the ground realities in Fiji.
Bro Francis Upgi Kim, Director, Economic and Social Policy for ITUC AP, concluded his presentation on a just transition by criticizing the host country Fiji’s authorities’ action for the arrest of Bro Felix Anthony, National Secretary of the FTUC cum President of the ITUC – Asia Pacific, while being with social partners and the ILO representative. The credibility of many commitments of the Fiji Government to the global agenda requiring social dialogue, including a just transition, was challenged.
Moreover, Fiji Water Authority has also terminated thousands of employees abruptly the National Union of Workers of which Bro Felix Anthony is the General Secretary is leading a separate struggle to defend the rights and dignity of the workers who are covered under a CBA. The terminated Fijian Water Authority workers are demonstrating in the FTUC Premises. Bro Jayasri Priyalal – Regional Director of UNI Apro Finance who was attending the ADB Annual meeting in Fiji, joined with Sailesh Naidu National Secretary of Fiji Bank & Financial Services Employees Union met the striking members at FTUC HQ and extended solidarity with them on 6th May 2019.
President Nakao identified three critical areas for Banks engagement with CSO. They are based on the proposals and feedback from CSO’s to the seven operational priorities listed in the ADB’s Strategy 2030
- Engaging the Community in Operationalizing the ADB’s Seven priority goals
- The potential impact on jobs as a result of Digital Transformation
- Mitigating the effects of climate change and introducing renewable energy generation
ADB meeting event concluded on 4th May 2019, and Bro Felix Anthony discharged from custody on 3rd May 2019.
Trade union representative from UNI Apro Finance, and Building and Woodworkers International and ITUC were amongst the CSO participants at the meeting held in Nadi, Fiji from 1 to 4 May 2019.