International Labour Organization Mission Visits Fiji

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ILO investigates complains of lack of freedom of association

By Shalveen Chand

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 6, 2014) – The International Labour Organisation's direct contact mission team is in Fiji to verify complaints by local trade unions on the lack of freedom of association.

In June, a decision to send a team to Fiji after the general election was made by the ILO in its session of the governing body.

A tripartite delegation from Fiji, including the then Labour Minister Jone Usamate, unionist Daniel Urai and employer representative Harvey Probert were present at the meeting.

The terms of reference for the mission is based on the conclusions and recommendations of the ILO committee on freedom of association and had been at one stage agreed to by Fiji.

The decision to continue with the same terms of reference was also made.

A similar ILO team with the same objective was in Fiji two years ago but their mission was aborted.

According to the ILO, on September 17, 2012, the Office of the Prime Minister presented the mission with entirely new terms of reference, which the ILO found unacceptable.

As a result, the ILO mission was asked to leave Fiji immediately.

Fiji Trade Unions Congress acting general secretary Rajeshwar Singh said the unions would meet with the ILO direct contacts mission this week.

In July, Fiji's permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Nazhat Shameem told the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, that there was a need to work with the mission team to make sure that this was an inclusive process.

ILO, in its June meeting, also noted that there was a need to look into the claims made by the trade unions but also noted that certain trade unionists in Fiji were using workers' rights, the ILO and its governing body to further their personal agenda.

The direct contacts mission will then give a report to the 322nd Session of the governing body in November.

And if this does not take place then the 322nd Session would appoint a commission of inquiry. No comments could be obtained from the Labour Ministry last night.

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