The Fijian military regime has been challenged by the international trade union movement to end its elimination of internationally recognized workers’ rights.
Despite warnings to stop further attacks on unionists by the regime, IndustriALL Global Union and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) are now calling for action from the United States Trade Representatives Hearings.
Fiji currently qualifies for a General System of Preference (GSP) in the United States. The GSP provides an important tariff reduction on certain goods from Fiji into the US. However in hearings held by the US Trade Representatives, and a post hearing brief, the American Federation of Labor & Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) filed for Fiji to be suspended from the list of eligible beneficiary developing countries. The proposed suspension would be made unless the interim Fijian Government takes immediate and substantial steps to address concerns raised in the petition and in the pre and post hearing briefs.
As part of a new coordinated effort IndustriALL and the ITF have informed the US Trade Representatives of their strong support for the AFL-CIO petition. IndustriALL and ITF have also written to the Fijian regime expressing concerns over the impact that a suspension would have on workers in the manufacturing sector should the Government continue to ignore warnings and refuse to stop its rights abuses.
The abuses include reports of aggressive intimidation of trade unionists, as well as police and military intelligence monitoring over union activities. Fijian authorities demand that union meetings in a public place must only be conducted following issuance of a permit, which often stipulates police presence.
The assaults on trade unionists in Fiji are well documented in reports of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association and Committee of Experts. The ITUC has also coordinated letters of protest and actions against these assaults and continues to lead a global campaign.
Jyrki Raina General Secretary of IndustriALL believes “This campaign is about the fundamental question of human and workers’ rights. IndustriALL and our other global partners will not back down from this fight. We will ask the international union movement to show the same strength of purpose that our brothers and sisters in Fijian unions have and we will force a change and win back the worker rights that have been systematically removed.”
The Fijian unions represent workers in many important sectors such as textile, sugar and mining. IndustriALL will also be closely monitoring multinational corporations seeking to invest in Fiji and also campaigning for a moratorium until workers’ rights are restored.