On strike for the last 21 years, the Fiji Mine Workers’ Union, an affiliate of IndustriALL Global Union, lodged a submission to the Constitutional Commission in Vatukola on 31 August calling for improved workers’ rights in the country’s new constitution.
The former Vatukoula goldminers have not received any resolution of their grievances despite promises given by the current Fijian Government when it took power in 2007.
The union lodged its submission to the commission as it was unable to pursue its case in Fiji when the 1997 Constitution was thrown out in 2009 rendering the Human Rights Commission and Ombudsman's Office defunct. Instead the union sent its complaint directly to the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva.
According to local news reports, FMWU leader Josefa Sadreu told the commission Fiji's new constitution should protect and promote labour rights as Fiji is a signatory to the ILO Conventions.
One of the most important aspects of any constitution in Fiji is that it should respect the rights Fiji has undertaken to protect under the ILO. This international law, namely the ILO Convention, should be protected by constitution,
said Mr Sadreu.
The union also stated that the constitution should have a robust and independent human rights commission and ombudsman’s office. It wants to see an independent judiciary, and the protection of the employment relations free from interference. The union believes the Bill of Rights provision in the 1997 constitution should be left intact.
Numerous trade union leaders have been detained and prevented from exercising their rights since Commodore Frank Bainimarama took power of Fiji in a military coup in 2006, installing Ratu Josefa Iloilo as President on 4 January 2007.
IndustriALL Global Union joins with many unions from around the world in their concerns about the persecution by the Fijian Government of workers and their representatives.