06 October 2015: Media Release – Government can avert ILO Inquiry
A fundamental role of Government is to avert disaster, not create conditions in which it (disaster) thrives.
The enactment of the Employment Relations Promulgation (Amendment) Act is despite Government signing an Agreement to make necessary changes to the now repealed ENI Decree in conformity to ILO’s conventions, is a recipe for economic disaster.
The sad reality is that we now have a Commission of Inquiry looming in the near future – a decision on this will be made in November.
Government, especially the Attorney General, need to work on convincing the International Labour Organization that Fiji does not need an inquiry.
Two months ago, we heard the Prime Minister say the Opposition and trade unionists did not know how a modern economy works and referred to the Amended ERP as a necessity for a modern economy. Now the Attorney General is taking about a modern economy.
But this government wants to modernise the economy by suppressing fundamental rights and freedoms of workers. The amended ERP is like going from the fry pan into the fire. The list of essential industries has significantly increased from those designated as essential industries in the now repealed ENI Decree.
Does Government believe that the ILO will accept that erosion of trade unions and workers’ rights and freedoms are necessary in a modern economy?
Surely not because it is suppressing workers’ rights and freedoms in gross violation of ILO core conventions in the name of economic progress.
It is still not to late to change course and avert the inquiry because it will have devastating impact on the economy and the livelihood of workers. Government, as a tripartite partner, signed an agreement in March, delaying the decision to have an inquiry in November. This basically bought it time. But it seems a so-called modern economy is more important to government than full compliance to ILO Conventions 87 and 98, namely Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining.
Government’s role is to strengthen institutions and organisations and empower people running those organisations to deliver the services to the people. What people need from government is a systematic approach to dealing with problems faced by people through appropriate institutions and the people who run these organisations. But this is not happening.
We need to avert the Inquiry and the only way is compliance and adherence to the Agreement Government signed in March. Amendments to the ERP Amendment Act can be brought as a Bill this month. The amendments must conform to ILO Conventions.
Parliament is scheduled to sit on 12th October to elect the President. The amendment ERP Bill can be moved after the agenda of the Presidential elections.
The Attorney-General, who is well known for bringing Bills before Parliament under Parliamentary Standing Order 51 for urgent consideration, can do the same in this case, for the sake of saving our economy from the adverse effects of an Inquiry.
It must be done. There is no other way. Biman Prasad NFP Leader