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Industrial disputes

Felix Chaudhary And Repeka Nasiko
Saturday, January 13, 2018

EMPLOYMENT and Industrial Relations Minister Jone Usamate says his ministry does not get involved in industrial disputes unless the two parties involved have exhausted all the formal mechanisms available to them.

He made the comment during a press conference on the Air Terminal Services impasse.

Mr Usamate said while mediation had been put on hold, the ministry was ready to facilitate further negotiations with an independent mediator steering the discussions.

"In any organisation where there is a disciplinary action, the ministry, as a third party does not get involved until the formal disciplinary mechanisms have been exhausted," he said.

"We don't just jump in. We let them sort it out within before we jump in. Whether it's a grievance situation or a disciplinary situation, you try to exhaust the processes within the company.

"Once that is exhausted, you come to the third party which is the ministry."

Mr Usamate said he had contacted ATS management to seek their views on having an independent mediator after a request was made by the workers representative — the Federated Airlines Staff Association (FASA).

FASA national secretary Vilikesa Naulumatua said the fact that workers had given FASA the mandate to go for industrial action meant that all internal mechanisms had failed.

"He should have realised that 11 years of negotiations had not gotten anywhere and once we had given notice for strike on December 25, that meant that all the internal mechanisms had been exhausted," he said.

"We were simply exercising our rights under the law and once the ministry got involved and held the informal mediation, they should have seen it through and resolved the impasse and not left everyone hanging.

"Once again, they have failed to realise the gravity of the situation and failed to take into account the 11 years of failed negotiations."

In an interview in Nadi yesterday, Mr Usamate added that the neutral mediator would cost the two parties.

"To have an independent mediator, it means that both parties have to be able to 'give and take'," he said.

"They can't stand still. The discussions are continuing with both parties and we are getting the feedback from the management and from the workers.

"If we feel that an independent mediator is something that is going to work and is viable then we will progress with that.

"But an independent mediator will cost something.

"So both parties must be willing to absorb the costs. There are independent mediators available and some of them charge a fee and obviously the parties that looked for their services will have to pay for those fees."

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