EFFORTS to improve Fiji's biggest agricultural export — the sugar industry hangs in the balance as the International Trade Union Confederation lobbies for stakeholders to stop a sugar grant of more than $22million.
Confirming this yesterday, Labour Minister Jone Usamate said the grant was given to Fiji in recognition of its stringent compliance to the World Fair Trade Organisation requirements on child labour.
Mr Usamate said while the news was shocking, he had labelled the actions of ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrows as anti-Fiji hinting that the country's trade unionists might have spread misinformation on the matter.
He added that Ms Burrow's recommendation of removing the Fairtrade Certification from Fiji would deny Fiji these funds.
"This woman is making a recommendation that this Fairtrade Certification be taken away from Fiji," he said.
"She does not provide specific reasons and just says that it should be taken away. Can you believe this and these suggestions are being made by the Secretary General of the ITUC, which in turn has a very close relationship with the Fiji Trades Union Congress and its former general secretary Felix Anthony?"
Mr Usamate said Ms Burrows did not know anything of the Fijian people's struggles to keep the industry alive.
"For a trade unionist to call for the European Union to remove the benefits of the Fair Trade system from this industry is basically saying that as a trade unionist, she does not really care for the plight of workers in this country."
However responding to Mr Usamate's comments, Mr Anthony said as far as workers' rights for workers in Fiji was concerned, there were reports and resolutions with the International Labour Organisation which comprised workers, employers and government reports.
Mr Anthony said those reports clearly indicated the Fijian Government was in violation of workers fundamental rights in Fiji.
"The numerous resolutions adopted by the ILO calls on the Fijian Government to fully respect workers fundamental rights and the breaches are clearly reflected in these reports," he said.
"The minister is aware of this report and what the ILO's expectations of the Fijian Government are."