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Debate on rights

Ropate Valemei
Friday, January 25, 2013

THE Fiji Bank and Finance Sector Employees Union has raised concern over the continued suppression of workers' rights in the financial sector.

Newly-elected union president Alifereti Tora said the daylight denial of workers' rights was their main concern.

He said the Essential National Industries (ENI) (Employment) Decree 2011 had destroyed the terms and conditions of employment for banking sector workers in various collective agreements.

"Since September 2011, thousands of banking workers had been denied collective bargaining and representation rights."

In a statement, he said the bankers were also denied the right to take their grievances and disputes to any tribunal, court or even mediation. "The continued job losses and stagnant pay levels despite rising profits in the financial sector confirm the failure of the ENI decree to protect the workers," he said.

"The union council also noted that almost a year and half since the ENI decree came into effect, the Ministry of Labour and the Prime Minister's office had failed to grant timely registration and certification of bargaining representative leaving the workers in limbo."

The union said the introduction of the new Political Parties Decree would restrict the right to political participation by workers and their trade union officers.

"This will further restrict freedom of association and collective bargaining already severely restricted in the ENI decree," the union said.

While the union was not affiliated to any political party, it would continue to respect the rights of its members and officers to maintain their own political beliefs and affiliation.

Minister for Labour Jone Usumate said the ENI decree had an adequate mechanism for negotiation.

"They have to get their bargaining unit and it should be aligned with the trade union. Those were some of the provisions in the old legislation in terms of bargaining their conditions for negotiation," he said.

"They have the right to be represented by trade unions and the negotiations have to be by bargaining — that has to be registered here."

Mr Usumate was unable to comment further on the issue because he had not sighted the complaint from the union but maintained normal mechanisms in place would continue.