Singh: ‘We value our people and their rights’

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Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, Agni Deo Singh. Picture: PARLIAMENT OF FIJI

Harassment, intimidation and arrest of trade union leaders, especially when they conduct union activities and highlight grievances facing workers, will now become a thing of the past.

This was the assurance given by Minister for Labour, Productivity and Industrial Relations Agni Deo Singh while delivering his Parliament address yesterday.

“It will not happen under our Coalition Government led by Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka,” he said.

“We value our people. We value their rights as enshrined under the constitution and also under the ILO conventions ratified by Fiji. The right to organise and collective bargaining was curtailed under the FijiFirst government and freedom of assembly and freedom of speech was something that they never allowed under their leadership.

“Sixteen years of uncertainty over the right of freedom of association, free speech, right of assembly, and to strike or picket when negotiations with employers fall through, will come to an end when unions, employers and Government come together to discuss and reach solutions amicably.”

He said in the past, through his close association with the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC), they had noted how their application to conduct a peaceful march was denied eight times without any valid reasons.

“The national secretary of FTUC, Felix Anthony, was arrested in May, 2019, at the ministry’s conference room at Level 4 Civic House in front the director ILO, the then minister for employment and other executives from employers and worker’s organisations who had come for a good faith meeting.

“Let me remind honourable Bala that as former Minister for Employment, he did not follow his own agreement that was signed by the tripartite partners in January, 2016, on the Labour Law Review and to bring it in conformity with the ILO convention ratified by Fiji. The ILO committee of experts made many recommendations for Fiji to follow, but it was to no avail since the previous FijiFirst government did not have the will to do that.”

Mr Singh said the coalition Government would ensure this was done as the country reclaimed its international standing in relation to compliance with ILO conventions and various recommendations.