FTUC: Terminations send a very wrong signal to other employers

Fiji Trades Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony. Picture: FT FILE

The Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) says there is no justification to terminate Fiji Airways workers just because other airlines or employers have done so.

In a statement issued yesterday, FTUC national secretary Felix Anthony said airline workers overseas who had lost jobs had government assistance made available to them — while the same could not be said for Fiji.

“The difference is that workers who are terminated abroad are assisted by their governments and have social safety nets like unemployment benefits or special stimulus packages for workers who have lost their jobs,” he said.

“We see nothing of that sort here in Fiji. So, let’s compare apples with apples.

“Fiji Airways terminations send a very wrong signal to other employers who think now they can terminate workers overnight without any further obligation.

“Government’s sanctioning of such behaviour is worrying to say the least.”

Mr Anthony said FTUC and Fiji Airways workers did not dispute the challenges faced by Fiji Airways.

“What is abhorrent is the manner in which they have terminated workers.

“There was absolutely no dignity accorded to workers and least of all total lack of good faith despite telling the world that Fiji Airways employees were one happy family.

“The family has been tossed out the window. It is becoming clear that Fiji Airways wishes to do away with the union and start afresh with individual contracts, reduced wages and salaries, and benefits.”

In response to queries posed by this newspaper earlier, Fiji Airways managing director and CEO Andre Viljoen said Fiji Airways was in the same position as most other airlines, having to pay recurrent fixed costs, but earning next to zero revenue.

“In the circumstances, it was simply not sustainable for the company to continue to pay salaries to employees who are not working,” he said.

Mr Viljoen said the termination of 758 employees was based upon the company’s inability to provide work to affected employees and this was not a restructuring or redundancy process.

This article was published in The Fiji Times on Friday, May 29, 2020

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