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Unions condemn Anti-union law drafted at $1,000 hourly rate

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Sept. 22, 2011) – The head of Fiji’s Trade Union Congress says the apparent drafting of an employment decree by a New York law firm at the request of an airline chief may be a first for Fiji. His comments follow the leak of the firm’s itemized US$24,000 invoice for three months work on the coupfourpointfive blog.

The documents show Air Pacific’s CEO, David Pflieger, commissioned the Essential National Industries Employment Decree from the U.S. legal firm, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy earlier this year.

Felix Anthony says private companies have no role in writing laws, which should be properly considered by an elected government. Anthony says the move is extremely unethical and warrants Pflieger’s immediate dismissal.

"This is probably the first time in Fiji’s history that we have had lawyers sitting on the other side of the world drafting decrees or laws that would affect the people of Fiji. This only clearly demonstrates the dictatorial nature of the government in Fiji. And the fact that there is absolutely no accountability or transparency in this process."

[PIR editor's note: The decree in question provides that unions and union members are severely limited in their abilities to protest unfair or otherwise undesirable conditions, unless permits are acquired. Strikes, job actions slowdowns or harmful financial activities are allowable, and while individuals may face a fine up to US$28,000, unions may be fined up to US$56,000 if found guilty The Fijian government's attorney-general said, while the decree changes the relationship unions have with the interim regime in negotiations, workers will not be exploited..]

Anthony says there has been no consultation with the people in Fiji, nor with the workers of Fiji. The decree has been widely criticized [by international organizations], including the International Labor Organization.

The interim regime has refused to comment about its role in procuring the decree for which Air Pacific was billed at an hourly rate of just under US$1,000.

Air Pacific has declined to comment while its minority stake holder, Qantas of Australia, says it wants no involvement in the matter, adding that Air Pacific runs a separate operation.

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