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Fiji Time: 9:35 PM on Wednesday 17 September

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Former unionist argues against political parties decree

Felix Chaudhary
Sunday, May 11, 2014

PEOPLE'S Democratic Party leader Felix Anthony says trade unionists cannot be classified as public officers because they are paid by and answer to members of their respective organisations.

"The trade union movement in this country totally rejects and objects the provisions in the Political Parties Registration Decree which actually classify trade unionists as public officers," he said.

"Trade unionists are not public officers, they are not paid from the public purse.

"Trade unions are membership-based organisations and like every other membership-based organisation, the members have the ultimate right to determine the course that the organisation takes and the campaign it takes."

Mr Anthony went on to say that the work of trade unionists and politics were very similar in nature.

"Let me categorically say that the work of trade unions and politics are intertwined, there is not even a fine line between the two.

"The functions of trade unions are actually similar to that of politicians and that is we campaign, we raise issues and we lobby for issues that affect workers in this country."

Attorney-General and Minister responsible for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the new rules which cast trade unionists as public office holders were put in place to ensure they did not misuse members' funds.

"Trade unions have enormous conflicts of interest when you have a lot of people, for example, who are politicians and also trade unionists," he said.

"There is a huge blurring of the lines between the demarcation of the trade union activities and the political party activities.

"As we've seen in the past many trade unionists have used members' funds for political advancement.

"Many ordinary members have said to us that this is a very good thing because now there is a clear demarcation."