Take a break, unions urge Fiji regime

Take a break, unions urge Fiji regime

Take a break, unions urge Fiji regime

Updated 7 December 2012, 19:11 AEDT

International trade unions support Fiji workers' calls for an interim government ahead of promised democratic elections.

The trade union movements of Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the United States have added their weight to Fiji workers' calls for an interim government ahead of promised democratic elections.

They have written a joint letter to their governments supporting Fijian unions.

The union bodies - ACTU, NZCTU, TUC and AFL-CIO - have asked political leaders in all four countries to support a Fiji Trade Union Congress submission to Fiji's constitutional commission.

The FTUC wants the coup-installed military government to hand over control to an interim administration three months before elections scheduled for 2014.

This would avoid any interference in the electoral process.

Solidarity

The Australian Council of Trade Unions president, Ged Kearny, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the joint letter was an important sign of international solidarity with unions in Fiji.

"We have asked that the governments speak up about our concerns about the constitutional review and the electoral process and say publicly that the interim government, the military regime, is not going about things in a proper and fair manner.

"We cannot therefore properly sanction any future elections as purely democratic."

Ms Kearney said: "I think is is significant we have the US, Australia, NZ, UK - trade unions of each country writing to our foreign ministers saying under no circumstances be mistaken about what is happening with the constitutional review, and electoral process, in Fiji. And I think that we are saying: ignore this really at the region's and that country's peril.

"I think the message it will give those governments is that the trade union movement is not going to give up on Fiji and our colleagues and our fellow workers in that small island nation.

"We are going to continue to highlight the injustices and the human rights violations that are occurring there and we will not let it go away and we certainly do not want our governments to just let this slip by."
The world unions wanted their governments to go to the regime and "tell the regime that simply this is not on".

Intimidation

"The only way we can support the elections is if it's actually a fair democratic process which it clearly is not at the moment."
The Australian union leader said targeting and harassment and intimidation of trade unionists was continuing in Fiji.

"We're still seeing a violation of human rights. How can people feel that they can contribute openly and honestly in a debate if they are fearful for their safety?

"We are actually saying that if they were serious about free, democratic elections then the current leadership should actually relinquish effective control and actually step aside at least three months before the elections so there can be free and fair debate and people can go about engaging in debate about an election without fear of safety.

"We think that any amendments to a constitution should be done by public referendum, not by an assembly or a chairperson that is appointed by the current interim prime minister.

"And we're thinking that all military personnel appointed to civil service positions should actually step down and apply through a proper process."

The international union movements were "committed to constantly speak up on behalf of the people of Fiji . . . and hopefully our governments, who are quite powerful governments and who have substantial political and economic relations with Fiji can actually put pressure on that interim government for these things to happen."