ABC'S Bruce Hill Interview Union Head and Qantas CEO on Fiji

Union to challenge Fiji industrial action ban

Updated July 22, 2011 10:52:02  Radio Australia's Pacific Beat 

Australia's transport workers union has vowed to fight a court ruling saying they can't take action against the national carrier, Qantas, over what they see as the suppression of union rights in Fiji.

Air Pacific, which is partly owned by Qantas, has secured an injunction against the TWU which was pursuing possible industrial action in support of colleagues in Fiji.

Union secretary Tony Sheldon says the inunction will be challenged in court, and he's called on Australian tourists to avoid holidaying in Fiji, which is ruled by a coup installed military government.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speakers: Tony Sheldon, Australian Transport Workers Union secretary; Alan Joyce, Qantas CEO

SHELDON: Well what's particularly worrying is we've seen now in Fiji Paradise Lost, we've seen the Fair Work Australia say that we are not able to speak out about the corruption, the inappropriate activities, the suppression and violence in Fiji. Well I say this right now, that that will not stop me from speaking out and our union has made it very clear decision coming this Monday that we will take a challenge to that decision from Fair Work Australia. But in addition to that, our members around airports that we've spoken to have said quite clearly that we are on the right track. Qantas has the responsibility as their employer to deliver rights to people, to companies and operations they invest in Fiji and they are prepared to take whatever it takes, whatever actions appropriate to take to make sure that Air Pacific toes the line to giving proper representation to the Fijian community.

HILL: Air Pacific. which successfully challenged the union's proposed industrial action, says statements made by the TWU not only threatened harm to Air Pacific but the Fijian economy and the people of Fiji of which 45,000 are employed in the tourism and hospitality industry. And Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says he doesn't know why the union is targeting his airline at all.

JOYCE: I think it's interesting that the union has targeted Qantas in this, because first of all, Qantas is the only brand that actually doesn't fly to Fiji. Jetstar flies there and Pacific Blue flies there and Air Pacific is an investment that we've had for sometime. Qantas owns 46 per cent of Air Pacific, doesn't have any management control over Air Pacific. It doesn't exercise any role into the day to day running of Air Pacific and we've made that clear for sometime. Now we continue to operate the markets around the world by licence from the Australian government and if the Australian government doesn't have any issues with that market, any issues with Jetstar into that market then we'll continue to operate there. Jetstar employs grand handlers in Fiji, but doesn't employ pilots or cabin crew or any employees in the Fijian market and that is the only group involvement that we have direct responsibility for. The exact same position that Pacific Blue. And I think it's always interesting that when these things come up, what the issue is worldwide, Qantas seems to get the blame for it. I mean I have to say that if people could find a reason to blame us on Harold Holt's disappearance, they will dare to find a way of doing it, because we seem to get levied with everything that occurs.

HILL: But the TWU's Tony Sheldon says his members are determined to campaign against what he sees as the Fiji interim government's suppression of basic human rights, and he wants Australian tourists to support that by refusing to travel there for holidays.

SHELDON: We've spoken to Qantas employees around Australia and they've said very clearly to us to the union officials that we're not going to stand by and allow this despotic regime and its business cheer squad to turn around and stop us fighting to support our work colleagues at Air Pacific, Jetstar, operations there, or within the island of Fiji. We're quite clearly commited to make sure that we do take action against a government that's turned around suppressing the most fundamental basic human rights and an economy that's effectively pumped by 44 per cent of the tourism market for Australia. As Australians we have a responsibility to make sure that we have a proper Pacific regime in that country, which is democratic, has a right opportunity for people to speak up, and does not suppress fundamental human rights, including labour rights.

No Australian would stand by and travel to Zimbabwe to support the Mugabe government. They should not be travelling to Fiji and supporting a dictatorship that's suppressing basic human rights in that country, basic labour rights in that country and basic opportunities in the order of law in that country. We need as Australians to turn around and say that we will put other holiday destinations on our list and not Fiji. We need to stand up as we did with South Africa, we need to stand up as we have done with Zimbabwe and we need to stand up as many of us are doing with regards to Burma.

Comments

Nive said…
Felix Anthony said on ABC last week, "people were being beaten by rubber belts". I have seen people who were beaten by the Army in 1987, and I can say this, Felix Anthony was not beaten up by the Army. He was lying on ABC, and he has lied to the Australian Unions. If the Fijian Army had really beaten Felix Anthony, he would have become the proud owner of one two black eyes, a swollen face, etc. Don't worry Felix. You may still have the good fortune of getting the "Army treatment" when you go back! One should think really hard before making wishful statements.

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