Australian unions welcome moves today by the International Labour Organisation to intervene to safeguard human and labour rights in Fiji, ahead of a delegation heading to the island nation next week to investigate abuses of workplace rights first hand.

The ILO’s regional meeting in Kyoto today passed an unprecedented resolution condemning the actions of the Fijian Government to persecute union leaders and restrict fundamental labour rights. The resolution was backed by both union and employer representatives, including the ACTU and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

ACTU President Ged Kearney said it was disappointing the Fiji Government had defied international concerns about the removal of workers’ labour rights and violence toward union leaders.

“The ILO’s regional meeting has called on its governing body to step up its actions to restore workplace rights in Fiji,” Ms Kearney said.

“There can be no greater condemnation of Fiji’s arrogant breaches of workplace rights than from the International Labour Organisation.”

Ms Kearney, who also hopes to meet with the Fiji Government when she leads a delegation from Australia and New Zealand to investigate the worsening situation next week, said the military regime could no longer ignore regional intervention.

“The ILO has also demanded that the travel restrictions imposed on Fiji Trades Union Congress Secretary Felix Anthony be removed immediately, in keeping with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which allows for everyone to leave and return to his or her own country,” she said.

“It is unimaginable that the Fiji Government continues to defy basic human rights in the face of growing international outrage.

“Unions will not sit back and watch the oppression and violence directed at workers and union leaders by a Government installed via a coup and which has no democratic mandate.”
Ms Kearney is seeking a meeting with Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Attorney General Aiyez Sayed-Khaiyum during her three-day visit to Suva from next Wednesday.

“The Fiji military regime continues to deny its violations are illegal or even restrictive of its workforce, so if it indeed has nothing to hide then it should be pleased to meet with me,” she said.

“The Government, which was installed by a military coup in 2006, has jailed trade union leaders with no cause and issued decrees that have deprived most Fijian workers of their fundamental international labour rights guaranteed by ILO conventions.”