4 August 2011
Hon Julia Gillard MP
Prime Minister
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Prime Minister

Re: Deteriorating situation in Fiji

I bring to your notice three alarming recent developments in Fiji.

First, yesterday the President of Fiji Trades Union Congress and General Secretary of the National Union of Hotel and Catering Workers, Daniel Urai, was detained by Fiji police.

This morning he and his union organiser were still being held in Nadi Police Station. He has been questioned regarding a meeting he had yesterday afternoon with some of his members at an island resort.

Second, yesterday the Essential National Industries Employment Decree was promulgated. A copy of the Decree is attached. It appears to be a combination of two draft decrees that we had previously seen. This draconian Decree appears to:

  • Apply to all Government owned industries and any other that the Minister may designate
  • Prohibit all strikes, slowdowns, sick actions or any action that may be financially or operationally harmful to the employer
  • Prohibit unions efforts to obtain registration as “representative of a bargaining unit” or influence collective bargaining outcomes in any dispute
  • Voids all current collective agreements within 60 days
  • Provide that after 60 days period any strike or lockout may take place only with the written authority of the Minister
  • Prohibits overtime payments unless agreed by the employer
  • Prohibits overtime payments for weekend work, work on days off, and work on public holidays unless agreed by the employer
  • Cancel all current Wages Council Orders regarding minimum terms and conditions of work in designated industries
  • Require that all members, office bearers, officers and executives of the union shall be employees of the designated company
  • Provide that any individual who fails to comply shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of %50,000 and five years imprisonment of both
  • Provide that any union shall be liable to a fine of up to $100,000

Third, as reported in the press, on Monday this week the Attorney General of Fiji announced an amendment decree to the Civil Service Act which immediately terminates check-off facilities (enabling payment of union dues) for all public sector unions, including teachers, nurses, the civil service and other government workers.

We are gravely concerned, in light of these developments, for the safety and continued liberty of all unionists in Fiji, including Mr Felix Anthony (General Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress).

I ask that you direct the Australian Ambassador to Fiji to make appropriate inquiries and representations to the government of Fiji, to demand the immediate release of Mr Urai and warn strongly against any attempt to arrest MR Anthony.

I shall keep you informed of developments as we hear about them

Yours sincerely,
Ged Kearney
cc: Kevin Rudd, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Craig Emerson, Minister for Trades
Richard Marles, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs