News and Editor's Comments Monday 8.8.11
Scroll down to Weekend Reading.Monday 8.8.11
DIFFERENT VIEWS ON FIJI AND AUSTRALIA AND OTHER ISSUES. For a discussion on this and other Fiji issues, listen to Graham Davis and Jon Fraenkel on Radio Australia.
FIJI'S ECONOMIC RATING IMPROVES. Standard and Poor has upgraded its rating for Fiji. For foreign currency long term sovereign credit up to B from B-; for foreign currency short-term rating to B from C; and foreign currency to B/stable from B /positive. The report noted the continued improvements to Fiji's external position and the reduction in the current account deficit. This will further assist Fiji's external position to improve as the level of foreign reserves increases. Government is hoping the new ratings will encourage investor confidence. -- Based on:1568/MOI)
FIJI OUR NEIGHBOUR - OUR CONCERN. Darien Fenton writes in the NZ Labour Party website, Red Alert, in support of the the Fiji unionists led by Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai. Read what he has to say.
This is the comment I made on the site. Note that it is addressed to a NZ audience. I have not elaborated on where I disagree with Government's actions against the trade unions. These are covered by writer of of the next item.
There are certainly elements of the legislation that are very disturbing but the TU leaders are by no means the innocents you portray. And their recent 'alliance' in Sydney and Auckland with the so-called Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement is also disturbing. The FDFM is a front for the racist SDL party that narrowly won the 2006 election and sought to introduce legislation further enshrining the rights and privileges of ethnic Fijians or, more accurately, the jobs and perks of their elite and chiefs, for ordinary Fijians benefited little).
This 'democracy movement' seeks to restore the powers of the unelected Great Council of Chiefs (that does not represent any non-ethnic Fijian) to appoint the President and half of the Senate.
I agree with the previous writer. NZ has helped isolate the Bainimarama government, cutting off aid and EU and other assistance. We have unwittingly contributed to the downturn of the economy and the increase of poverty. Our travel ban has made civilians reluctant to take up govt appointments and led to the further militarisation of the civil service. Our media has not even attempted to be informed or fair minded in its coverage. And our politicians, instead of helping to steer Fiji towards a better democracy, have unintentionally aided all the forces acting against democracy, which, in turn, has contributed to the latest action against the TUs.
We are poorly informed on our Pacific neighbours, and need to look again at our Fiji policy because it has been counter-productive, producing results opposite to those intended. Our diplomatic efforts need to be better informed, more flexible and less non-doctrinaire. One (democratic) size does not fit all.
Please read my blog Croz Walsh's Blog:Fiji as it Was, Is and Can Be (www.crosbiew.blogspot.com) for a more informed and different view than you'll usually find in the mainstream media. I have lived, worked and researched in Fiji and other Pacific Islands intermittently since the 1960s.
A final word for Darien: the workers you write about are the lucky ones. They are employed, have relatively good wages and will still have some protection under the law. The ones neither you nor the Fiji union leaders have mentioned are the unemployed and those working for under F$2 an hour (recently increased thanks to the Government.) Anything that jeopardises the economy, and particularly the tourism industry, as you mention and the union leaders threaten, will not hurt the Fiji Government but it will make life that much harder for the estimated 40% of population living below the poverty line.
Anthony and Urai, in all their years as professional union leaders on salaries reportedly close to F$100,000, have never expressed any concern for them! It is apparently only some workers of the world that they wish to unite.
UNION DECREE 'DRACONIAN'. A view from a Fijian reader in Suva. The Essential National Industries Employment Decree is a draconian anti-worker decree that denies the fundamental right of workers to withdrew their labour and to engage in collective bargaining beyond a particular corporation. It also seeks to undermine umbrella unions as well as eliminate the employment of elected but professional trade unionists who are not employed by business houses in the concerned industry. This means that only fulltime or part-time employees can be union leaders not only weakening the leadership available to a union but also preventing wider trade union solidarity.
Very worryingly the decree also severely restricts the work of the ‘Wages Councils’ whose objective is to improve the wages of workers who are not unionized.There are unprecedented penalties of up to $50,000 or 5 years in prison and even up to $100,000.
This anti-worker legislation seeks to ensure the sustainability of ‘essential national industries’, yet none is threatened by industrial action. In a country where more than 60 percent of the working people earn below poverty wages, this draconian legislation is designed to prevent workers from demanding economic justice and seeking to leverage their negotiating position through wider trade union and labour movement solidarity.
The decree apparently has been adapted from American legislation designed to protect firms that are bankrupt and has been put together with no consultation whatsoever with the labour unions in the country. It is a slap in the faces of ordinary workers in Fiji.