Labour Minister on Worker, Human Rights
Addressing the ILO (International Labour Organization) conference in Geneva last week, Labour Minister Jone Usamate made references to a number of topical issues. Here are some of them. I have added the sub-heading.
|Blog author (L), Minister Jone Usamate (R)|
On worker and employer rights, he said Government was committed “to protecting and promoting the rights of all Fijian workers and employers, including our migrant workers. This is evident from the significant economic, constitutional and labour reforms which the Government has undertaken over the last 5 years.”
"The Fijian Government has taken significant steps to review and modernize the existing labour laws, practices and policies in Fiji. The Government has activated a tripartite social dialogue process, under the Employment Relations Advisory Board, which has undertaken a total of 38 one-day tripartite meetings since July 2012 and just concluded the review of our Employment Relations law at the end of last year. This revised law, which also covers migrant workers, and which addressed issues raised by the Committee of Experts, is expected to be gazetted before the end of the year."
BILL OF RIGHTS. “Our new Constitution … has one of the strongest Bill of Rights in the world. It reflects the basic rights of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights, which protects ordinary workers.
"….guarantees universally accepted principles and values of equality and justice to all Fijians. These include - common and equal citizenry, removal of all forms of discrimination, a secular State, eradication of systemic corruption, protection and promotion of human rights, an independent judiciary, and a voting system based on one person, one vote, one value, which totally removes ethnic voting."
FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS
"… our Constitution also contains an extensive chapter on fundamental human rights, which guarantees the promotion and protection of rights and freedoms of all Fijians including workers and their families [including] provisions guaranteeing freedom from slavery, servitude, forced labour and human trafficking; freedom from cruel and degrading treatment; right to executive and administrative justice; freedom of expression, publication and media; freedom of assembly; freedom of association; the right to fair employment practices; the right to humane and proper working conditions; right of all workers to economic participation; as well as the right of all Fijians and migrant workers to a just minimum wage."
"For the first time, all Fijians have guaranteed socio-economic rights in the Constitution. These include the right to adequate food and water, right to housing and sanitation, right to health, and the right to social security schemes. Also, the rights of disabled persons and the rights of children are protected, including the right to free primary, secondary and further education. Also for the first time, discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and marital status, amongst many other grounds, is prohibited."
REFORMS, JOBS AND WAGES
"The Fijian Government, in working towards maintaining its obligations as a member state of ILO, has introduced significant reforms to preserve and create jobs, to sustain industries essential to the economy, and to improve the living standards of all Fijians.
"For the first time in decades, Government has reduced the income and corporate taxes payable by over 99% of all Fijians, including thousands of workers as well as employer groups and companies.
"For the first time, all Government wage-earners last year received a 10% increase in their wages. All civil servants in the lower salary bracket, received sizeable increases in their salaries. From the beginning of 2013, senior citizens and retired workers over the age of 70 who do not have access to pensions, are being provided with State-funded pension benefits.
"In consultation with our tripartite partners, we are now reviewing the workers compensation regime, with a view to implementing a fair and modern no-fault scheme, to cover all workers, including migrant workers, for injuries and deaths arising at work. This complements the significant Pension Reform undertaken by the Fiji National Provident Fund.
"In response to the ILO Global Jobs Pact Resolution, the Fijian Government has established a National Employment Centre in 2009 This is a one-stop public employment service for all Fijians, and we have successfully implemented our first Fiji Volunteer Service which has sent many volunteers to Pacific countries on request. We are currently working with the ILO and ADB to formulate our first National Employment Policy to ensure job rich growth across all sectors. We aim to effectively address the issues raised in the World of Work Report 2014, as reflected in the resolution of the ILC Committee on Employment.
"We [have also] implemented our first National Minimum Wage to protect marginalized workers in the formal and informal economies. This will complement our existing 10 sectoral minimum wages."