Unions should not be based along racial lines

Postdate: 3/ 07/ 2007

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) is concerned that yet again, the unions are deemed to be acting along racial and political lines.

“Fiji’s 1997 Constitution guarantees that no person can be discriminated on the basis of their race, ethnicity, colour, religion, disability or sexual orientation. The right to non-discrimination is one of the core components of basic human rights,” CCF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rev Akuila Yabaki said.

Fiji’s Employment Relations Bill, in part 9, has adopted the prohibited grounds of discrimination under the 1997 Constitution, the Human Rights Commission Act and ILO Conventions 111 on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation.

“Workers should be unionised based on their trade and profession. The workers unions should not be based on a particular ethnic group. Nor should a workers union exclude workers from other ethnic groups from joining it, because this would be tantamount to discriminating a worker on the basis of their ethnicity,” Rev Yabaki said.

The Fijian Teachers’ Association (FTA) and the Viti National Union of Taukei Workers are two examples of race-based unions in Fiji, which exclude other races. These unions, just by virtue of their existence, are bringing a racial dimension to the current strike action by the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions (FICTU). These race-based unions are continuing the colonial legacy of divisions according to race.

“The FICTU strike is again creating racial discord in Fiji, because people are making racial comments such as, “the Fijian students will suffer because the Fijian teachers are on strike” … and “the Indian schools are not being affected because Indian teachers are not on strike,” Rev Yabaki said.

“There has to be some regulation in place that would respect the human right not to be discriminated on the base of race as a worker, and unions should also not be allowed to discriminate against workers on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour, religion or disability,” Rev Yabaki said.

For further information, please contact CCF Executive Director Rev Akuila Yabaki on ph: 3308379, fax: 3308380.

Rev Akuila Yabaki

Chief Executive Officer

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