23 Jun 2020

Fiji unions slam layoff of almost 300 workers at ATS

1:48 pm on 23 June 2020

The Fiji Trades Union Congress has condemned the decision by Air Terminal Services, (ATS), to lay off almost 300 of its workers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last week, the ATS board approved the termination of 285 employment contracts.

The company's chief executive, Hare Mani, said it was a "very difficult decision to make and one only made after exhausting all other options".

Felix Anthony

Felix Anthony Photo: RNZ

But FTUC national secretary Felix Anthony said ATS' claim it was not able to fulfil its contract with workers is an excuse to do as Fiji Airways did last month when it laid off almost 800 staff.

"A copycat termination of workers is a concern as both organisations are majority owned by the government which endorsed the terminations," Mr Anthony said.

The ATS said the company chose "not to simply give notice, as per the employment contract, but rather to make payment in lieu of notice".

In a statement, the CEO said more than 40 percent of the workforce had already exhausted paid leave provisions and were on Leave without Pay.

Mr Mani said employees had "received two weeks' of wages that they would not otherwise have been entitled to".

"Further to this, the company paid a 10 percent loading on all accumulated annual and long-service leave as per their contract."

But the Fiji Trades Union Congress said there was no consultation with the union despite proposals for workers to remain on leave without pay.

The Federated Airlines Staff Association, an affiliate of the FTUC, said the termination came as a "surprise" to the union and it's "considering its options and working closely with the congress on the best way forward".

Association president Semisi Turagabaleti said during meetings with the company management, there was "no indication whatsoever of workers' contracts being terminated".

Mr Turagabaleti said the association wasn't given any information beforehand so they could make proposals and return to the discussion table for a mutual agreement.

He said the collective agreement "basically states that the company needs to consult the association or the union, for them to discuss and mutually agree on any changes to workers remuneration".

The association is communicating with the affected workers through social media groups.

Nadi International Airport, Fiji

Nadi International Airport, Fiji Photo: RNZI/Sally Round