Fiji Public Sector Unions File Dispute Against Government Over 5-Year Contracts

Unions allege government forced permanent workers to sign limited-term contracts to receive pay raises

By Mere Naleba

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 5, 2017) – Five members of the Confederation of Public Sector Unions reported separate disputes with the Department of Labour yesterday.

The five unions are Fiji Public Service Association, Fiji Teachers Union, Fiji Nursing Association, Fijian Teachers Association and the National Union of Public Employees.

The filing of the disputes come after the Government's decision requiring civil servants with permanent status to sign five-year contracts which enable them to receive the pay increment announced in the 2017-2018 National Budget last Thursday.

Those who do not wish to sign the five-year contract are not eligible for the pay increment.

CPSU general secretary Rajeshwar Singh said the five unions agreed that their members had been treated unfairly and the unions had followed procedures needed to be taken to file a dispute.

"This is about the collective rights of employees, the whole of the public service. There are about 50 per cent teachers who are tenure workers and the same percentage for nurses and about 20 per cent the core of the civil servants," Mr Singh added.

"What we are saying is that you (Government) are forcing the contract on these people. We are saying it is holding our members to ransom."

The dispute filed with the Department of Labour by FTU named the Government as the employer of the FTU and the Civil Service Reform Management Unit as the contact person to be involved in the internal settlement of the dispute.

In its report of the dispute, FTU claims its members have been held at ransom and ultimately the practice was forcing contracts on its individual members.

"Fiji Government is in breach of Section 189 of the ERP (Amendment) Act No.1 of 2016 and 2013 Fiji Constitution, which means collective bargaining does not exist in the civil service," FTU reported.

On behalf of its members, the FTU said it was reporting the matter as a dispute for "unilaterally converting the permanent status" or tenured positions of its members to short term contractual appointments.

"The unilateral actions of the Government will result in insecurity of jobs in respect of our members and depriving them of housing loans etc, for an unstable five-year contract.

"Furthermore, the union treats the actions of Government as forcing fixed term contract on our members and the salary increase tantamount to buying the job security of our members and their better terms and conditions of service," the FTU said.

Fijian Teachers Association acting general secretary Peni Delaibatiki said the association did not agree with the circular dated June 22, 2017 issued to Ministry of Education staff members informing them that they would be given contracts to sign this month.

The FTU has about 4000 members while the FTA has about 3000 members.

Attempts to get comments from the Minister for Employment, Industrial Relations and Productivity, Jone Usamate and the ministry's permanent secretary Salaseini Daunabuna were futile when this edition went to press last night.

Fiji Times Online.
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