Union heads walk out

Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF) CEO Nesbitt Hazelman (right). Picture: SUPPLIED

TRIPARTITE partners must be able to sit down and talk through differences when it comes to addressing issues concerning workers’ rights and wages, says Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF) CEO Nesbitt Hazelman.

“We talk about goodwill negotiations, the importance of tripartism, and we even sign an agreement with the ILO (International Labour Organization) that we will negotiate in good faith, so we need to practise it,” he said.

Mr Hazelman made the comment in the wake of a walkout by union leaders from the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) on Monday.

ERAB is a three-party body made up of representatives of employers, workers and Government, as mandated by the employment laws.

Union heads said the unanimous decision to walk out was made when Government announced the wages councils would be dissolved and a consultant had been brought in to address the minimum wage issue.

Mr Hazelman said the manner in which workers wages were discussed needed to be more inclusive.

“In the past two or three years, everything was done by a consultant and the minister signs whatever the consultant produces and gazettes it. “Although the consultant’s report is presented to ERAB, there is no real discussion. We need to come to this issue as a tripartite body and discuss this accordingly.”

Mr Hazelman said ERAB was a tripartite institution and all decision-making had to be reached through discussion and consensus.

“From the employers’ perspective, we would like to see good will from all partners including Government — this is what tripartism is all about. “We need to walk the talk, we need to practise it and display it. “If unions have genuine concerns then we should be able to listen and to find a way around it through discussion.” He said wages councils had not been in existence for a number of years and the onus was on Government to set the platform for the way forward. “We need to get a formal undertaking from Government on how the wages will be set from hereon.”

However, a government press statement issued on June 11 after a meeting between Mr Usamate and ILO director-general Policy Deborah Greenfield, assured Fiji was committed to following through with the Joint Implementation Agreement signed by the tripartite partners in 2015.

One of the key elements of the agreement was the full participation of all tripartite partners in ERAB.

ERAB’s functions include considering and advising the minister on employment related and policy matters including issues of policy matters.

ERAB also facilitates the making of regulations, codes of practice and guides and advises the minister on consultation and co-operation between labour and management.