International unions lobby their governments on behalf of Fiji unions | Pacific Beat

International unions lobby their governments on behalf of Fiji unions

International unions lobby their governments on behalf of Fiji unions

Updated 7 December 2012, 19:14 AEDT

The trade union movements of Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and the United States have written a joint letter to the government, supporting Fiji unions.

The ACTU, NZCTU, TUC and AFL-CIO have asked all four countries to support the 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, to avoid interference in the electoral process.

Australian Council of Trade Unions President Ged Kearny tells Bruce Hill this joint letter is an important sign of international solidarity with unions in Fiji.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Australian Council of Trade Unions President Ged Kearny

KEARNY: I think this is incredibly significant; We have the United States of America, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, trade union movements in everyone of those countries actually writing to our foreign ministers saying do not, under any circumstances be mistaken about what is happening with the constitutional review and the electoral process in Fiji. And, I think that we're saying ignore this really at the region and that country's peril.

HILL: Do you think this is really going to have much of an affect on those four countries foreign policy? You're just the Trade Union Movement, you're just one sector of society?

KEARNY: Well, I think the message it gives to the 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 vilolations 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.

HILL: Have you and you're sister trade union movements asked these four governments, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and New Zealand to do anything specific when it comes to Fiji?

KEARNY: We've asked that the governments actually speak up about our concerns and the concerns about the Constitutional Review and the electoral process and actually say publicly that the interim government in Fiji, the military regime is not going about things in a proper and fair manner and that we cannot therefore actually sanction any future elections as purely democratic, given what's happening in that country.

We want them to go to the regime, to actually tell the regime, that simply this is not on. The only way we can support the elections if it is actually a fair democratic process, which it is clearly is not at the moment.

HILL: Well, the Fiji interim government would say that it is free and fair, that they've gone to great lengths to register people, that the elections will be held in 2014, and that they're trying to move forward and what you and the other trade unionists are doing is simply croaking about things that have happened in the past that don't really matter to people in Fiji at the moment?

KEARNY: Our concerns about the process at the moment are not things that have happened in the past. This is happening right now in real time. We are still seeing the targeting an harassment and intimidation of trade unionists, 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 know that the review process that was set up by Professor Yashki, we know that that that has been curtailed by recent degrees, for example, truncating the time that the Commission can actually conduct public consultations and we know that there are clear concerns about the process, we know, for example, that once the report is done, it will be handed over to the regime, who then, they themselves will decide pretty much what to do with it, what bits of it to pick up, what parts of it can actually be enacted. That is not fair. 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 three months at least three months before the elections, so that 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 the Constitution should be done by public referendum, not by an Assembly or chair person that is appointed by the current interim prime minister and we're thinking that all military personnel appointed to civil servant positions should actually step down and apply through a proper process.

HILL: Given what's happening in Fiji at the moment, do you seriously think that's actually going to happen though?

KEARNY: Well, we can only hope I think Bruce, and all I can say is that the Trade Union Movements of these four countries are committed to constantly speak up on the behalf of the people in Fiji who may not feel that they can. And hopefully, that 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.

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