6 May 2013

NZ and Australian unions launch campaign to alert Fiji travellers

7:22 pm on 6 May 2013

The New Zealand and Australian Councils of Trade Unions have launched a campaign to raise awareness among tourists about the political situation in Fiji.

The Secretary of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Peter Conway, told Jamie Tahana Fiji people's rights are being abused and tourists need to be aware of that.

CONWAY: What we're wanting to do is to raise awareness among potential tourists of what the reality is in Fiji. It is a military dictatorship and it's far from the paradise that's portrayed in the tourism brochures.

TAHANA: What relevance does this have to tourists going to Fiji?

CONWAY: Well, it's about ethical purchasing, and that applies whether you're talking about a supermarket or whether you're talking about holidays. We respect the fact that people will make their own decisions about whether or not they want to holiday in Fiji. But we want them to be informed. And it's about ethical purchasing, just as it is in a supermarket. So we want people to be aware. And the fact is that humans rights have been stripped away in Fiji and that is a huge concern.

TAHANA: The same situation is going on in plenty of other places. Why focus on Fiji?

CONWAY: Well, it's very close by and also the union officials that we deal with there, many of them have had problems where they've been locked up in jail, where they've been beaten. And they are speaking out strongly about the decrees that are really clamping down on workers' rights and freedoms. And there's a huge concern that the progress towards democracy is mythical, it's not real. And the New Zealand government really should be taking a stronger line about that.

TAHANA: Won't this do more harm than good in terms of hotel workers who are earning $3 an hour? They need this tourism dollar as well as Bainimarama does.

CONWAY: That's always the difficult thing. Do you speak up about this? Do you make the point? And we've taken the view, and the Hotel Workers Union leader has been charged with all sorts of things over there, that it really is time to speak out and that people who are considering going to Fiji for holidays, they do have options. And also if they do decide to go we'd like them to talk to people about the real story. So in the long run we want this to really benefit hotel workers and tourism workers in Fiji around their rights. 60% of people earning a wage in Fiji are living below the poverty line.

TAHANA: But less tourists going to Fiji will put these people's jobs on the line, will it not?

CONWAY: What it will do is it will put pressure on the government of Fiji to take seriously the concerns of the international community. And that is what ethical consumers, whether it's making a purchase of a product, or whether deciding to go on a holiday, that is the influence that they can bring to bear to try to get positive change.