Fiji Opposition Party Says Sugar Reform Bill ‘Unfair’

Law would disempower workers, unions: SODELPA

By Felix Chaudhary

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 26, 2016) – The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) says sections of the Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry Bill are undemocratic, unfair and discriminatory.

In a written submission to the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs on the Reform of the Sugar Cane Industry Bill, the party has called for the removal of Section 7 of the Bill, which details the restriction of industrial action.

The submission, approved by party leader Ro Teimumu Kepa and Opposition Whip Ratu Isoa Tikoca, said Section 7 must be removed because it was contrary to rights and freedoms enshrined in the 2013 Constitution and international laws that Fiji had ratified.

"Any law that disempowers the rights of workers and their unions should be objected to in the strongest sense," said SODELPA.

"Part 7, of the Bill, titled 'Restrictions on Industrial Action' further politicises the sugar industry by silencing dissent.

"In a democracy, workers should be allowed to have strikes, this Bill gives too much power to the minister and the ministry, and leaves strikes, walkouts and industrial actions at the 'approval' of the ministry. It is not in tune with recent laws enacted in Fiji's Parliament that deal with industrial action."

SODELPA said Section 7 was not in tune with agreed principals under the International Labour Organization's core conventions.

"Restricting workers from taking industrial action only because they are canegrowers is discrimination."

SODELPA said Part 7 of the reform Bill also violated the human rights of workers as contained in the Bill of Rights in Chapter 2 of the 2013 Constitution.

The standing committee is finalising its report on the reform Bill and Sugar Cane Growers Fund Amendment Bill.

The report will be handed to Parliament for debate soon.

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