12 Jun 2019

Fiji union members told not to sign contracts

5:39 pm on 12 June 2019

Fiji's National Union of Workers has advised its members not to sign individual contracts with the Water Authority despite being assured priority.

Workers from the Fiji Water Authority stage a protest in Nadi. More than 30 people have been arrested by police in relation to the action and a planned protest this weekend. 1 May 2019

Workers from the Fiji Water Authority staged a protest in Nadi last month. Photo: Fiji Trades Union Congress

More than 2000 workers' contracts were terminated by the Authority last month, which led to protests and the arrest of trade unionists and union members.

The union's industrial relations officer, Mererai Vatege, said more than 700 members have filed grievance claims against the Authority for unlawful termination and calling for their collective agreement to be enforced.

She said in last week's arbitration court sitting, the company assured union members and those terminated, that if they reapplied for work, priority would be given to them.

"Some of our members have applied. Some of them have been called for interview. And we've advised them not to sign any individual contracts because the union recognises the collective agreement which Water Authority should honour."

Ms Vatege said the workers' grievance claims were submitted to the Ministry of Labour.

"This morning, the mediation unit advised us that there is still no official approval or there is nothing yet from the chief mediator and those in charge at the mediation unit," she said.

In the meantime, the union is trying to help workers who are struggling to make ends meet.

"Some of our members when they got their termination letters on the 30 April, they were told to go to the FNPF (national provident fund)," she said.

"Some of them had gone to the FNPF but the majority of them are still waiting for the outcome of their case. Whether they will be taken back by the Water Authority or not.

"One of our members did come and tell us that he would be getting $FJ2000 from the FNPF."

She said both parties appeared in the arbitration court last week where the authority produced a list to the union of all its members who are permanent employees and those who are project workers or temporary employees.

Both parties will return to the Arbitration Court on 9 July.

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