4 Feb 2004

Fiji unions accuse minister of denying their rights

5:40 am on 4 February 2004

Three large public sector unions in Fiji have accused the Labour Minister of denying them their rights to take strike action against the government.

It follows Kenneth Zinck's decision to refer a dispute on public service pay and conditions to the government's permanent arbitrator, meaning that any strike would automatically become unlawful.

The chairman of the Confederation of Public Sector Unions, Rajeshwar Singh, has told the Daily Post that the action shows clear bias on the part of the government in selectively using legislation against its own employees.

Mr Singh says this is denying them their human as well as trade union rights.

He says the ministerial order referring the dispute to the arbitrator ignored the fact that the unions had not even given a 28-day notice of their intention to strike and had not nominated a day, even though they had the mandate of their members.

The unions want a 5-percent Cost of Living increase and the payment of an annual merit increment, but the state is offering only 1-percent and a new performance based system.