Alleged illegal employment agency charged

AN organisation alleged to have promised jobs in the US to a group of villagers from Vanua Levu has been charged, says Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Jone Usamate.

The group has been camping at Veiraisi in Nadera, Nasinu in anticipation of securing work contracts this week.

Mr Usamate said the organisation was charged for acting as an illegal employment agency and that his ministry was awaiting the decision of the Employment Relations Tribunal.

“People of Fiji are advised to ensure that any organisation that purports to organise workers for employment in other countries has to be registered and approved by the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations,” Mr Usamate said.

“We do not want our people to be exploited by unscrupulous people.”

Employment Ministry’s permanent secretary Salaseini Daunabuna said the Employment Relations Act 2007 gave the labour officer the power to institute proceedings in the ERT in respect of prescribed offences under the Act, and may prosecute such proceedings. “In this case, a person cannot act as an employment agency to enlist or recruit any person for employment under any foreign contract of service unless there is written authorisation from the permanent secretary for employment. Any contravention as such is an offence under the Act,” she said.

“Proceedings for these offences are instituted by our labour officer in the ERT.

“The tribunal deals with both civil and criminal matters regarding employment.”

This newspaper visited a group of youths from Vanua Levu on January 24, living under two makeshift tents at Veiraisi settlement in Nadera, Nasinu, waiting for their contracts since last December.

The organisation that has been charged by the Ministry of Employment is alleged to have been organising the group’s contracts.

One of the men who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they paid $38 for paperwork, which the youth had said was a blessing, not having to worry about their passports, visas and police clearance.

The man said they were told they would leave for the US last month.

According to the man, they had signed offer letters that stated they would receive money once they signed their contracts.

On January 25, we visited one of the supposed officials of the facilitating organisation at Natogadravu Village in Tailevu, who referred all queries to one Rupeni Rokoduguni, another official. Mr Rokoduguni declined to comment saying it was too early at this stage.

Attempts yesterday to again obtain comments proved futile.

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