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'Lockout', not strike

Felix Chaudhary
Monday, December 18, 2017

THE standoff between Air Terminal Services Fiji Ltd management and staff has escalated.

Government issued a statement yesterday calling the action of some ATS workers who left their posts on Saturday to attend a meeting of beneficiaries a "strike".

The workers have a stake in the 49 per cent worker shares in ATS. The Fiji Trades Union Congress has also taken a position in the dispute as more workers stayed away from work yesterday in support of their "suspended" colleagues.

FTUC national secretary and International Trade Union Confederation Asia-Pacific president Felix Anthony has said Government needed to understand the action taken was not a strike.

"What happened on Saturday had nothing to do with the union, it was a shareholders meeting," he said.

"This is not a strike. They were locked out when they attempted to return to work. The workers attended a meeting because they were frustrated with the way the company was being run, it is costing them money.

"For every dollar that is unnecessarily being spent, 49 cents belongs to workers.

"As shareholders, they are concerned about the viability of ATS and the on-going mismanagement.

"There has been no real consultation with workers and workers directors on the board have been sacked by government directors.

"They don't have a say at board level despite the fact they own 49 per cent.

"We are monitoring this situation very closely and urge Government not to be naive in dealing with this issue.

"If need be, we will take this matter internationally."

ATS Employees Trust secretary Viliame Finau called ATS Acting CEO Hare Mani 'incompetent.'

"The trustees have made all attempts to enter the premises to fulfill their required duties but are being prevented from doing so," he said.

"ATS management has lost its sense of direction and is hurting the business they were employed to manage.

"This is effectively an industrial action by the company against its shareholders."

About 300 ATS workers camped outside the ATS headquarters yesterday as the lockout entered its second day.

Federated Airline Staff Association national secretary Vilikesa Naulumatua said the solidarity shown by the workers was unprecedented.

"Workers who were not part of the lockout have joined their colleagues," he said.

"They have all unanimously agreed that if all workers are not allowed back, then none will be returning to work."

The Employment, Industrial Relations and Employment Ministry issued a statement yesterday labelling the walkout a strike.

"The strike today by some Air Terminal Services (Fiji) Limited employees has been declared unlawful by the Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations in accordance with the Employment Relations Act 2007 (Act)," the statement said.

"The Employment Relations Act sets out a proven and effective framework for the resolution of any workplace concerns, and only within that framework can issues be effectively resolved.

"By failing to operate within the framework, these employees have violated the law.

"To totally circumvent that process, especially in the midst of holiday travel, is a selfish act that was designed to confuse and inconvenience the travelling public, undermine the Fijian economy and create job loss."

The ministry said it had been assured by ATS management Fiji Airways, Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji and Airports Fiji Ltd of minimal to no disruption of services.

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