Workers’ rights champion passes away at 50

THE trade union movement is mourning the loss of Ratu Vilikesa Naulumatua Rayawa, a man hailed as a “champion of workers’ rights”.

Propelled into the limelight this year as national secretary of the Federated Airline Staff Association, the 50-year-old died on Monday after a short illness.

He was instrumental in highlighting the plight of ATS workers and renowned for standing by the 250 staff members who were locked out from December 16 until their reinstatement 37 days later.

Fiji Trades Union Congress national secretary Felix Anthony paid tribute to Mr Naulumatua and said that what he would remember most was his “immense faith in God, even in the most difficult of situations”.

“I have had the good fortune of knowing and working with Vilikesa, known to us as Bill for the past 15 years,” Mr Anthony said.

“He was a committed trade unionist and had a real passion for the job.

“Bill felt deeply about workers’ rights, fair play, advancing workers interest and this was most evident in his role at ATS as a worker-owned company.”

Mr Anthony added that Mr Naulumatua’s concern was not only for ATS staff members but also for the company as a whole.

“In our discussions, he always attempted to find a good balance between workers and the ATS interest. Bill, while passionate about workers’ rights, was also a calm thinker. He was one who would not easily give up on anything he believed in.

“His leadership and good nature was a source of strength for workers, particularly in the 37-days lockout of union members.”

Mr Anthony said Mr Naulumatua served as FTUC vice-president for a number of years and represented FTUC at a number of international forums.

“We have lost a solid trade unionist, a good friend and a brother. He will always be warmly remembered and missed.

“The workers are poorer in his passing away.

“On behalf of the thousands of workers that FTUC represents and the national executive, I would like to convey my deepest condolences to his wife and family.

We know where his heart was and we will continue what he loved and that is to serve others,” he said.