FTUC replies to AG’s statement regarding ITF – “do not deflect the real issues at stake”- Anthony.
The Attorney General has again displayed his ignorance and arrogance when questioning the credibility of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). The ITF is a Global Union Federation of all transport workers’ unions around the world based in London. It has about 20 million members represented in the aviation, shipping, road transport and railways in 150 countries. It has 6 affiliates in Fiji.
The Attorney General would do himself a favor if he simply read the report and understood its contents rather than making personal attacks to deflect the real issues at stake. The report is a fair and independent overview of the Fund and makes clear recommendations. It is not meant to be a criticism of the Fund but to raise legitimate concerns that we believe needs to be addressed for the betterment of the Fund and its members. It must be clearly understood that the FNPF is a workers’ superannuation fund and not an extension of the Ministry of Economy or the AG’s slush fund.
We have raised these concerns from the reports that FNPF itself makes public. Thousands of members in the Fund have zero balance. Even if we were to accept the AG’s explanation that 70% of members savings is in preserved accounts, a $20,000 savings would mean $14,000 in preserved account for retirement. That is grossly insufficient for a secure future which FNPF reminds us daily. The AG talks about Government’s unemployment assistance but very conveniently does not talk about the millions of dollars that workers were enticed into withdrawing from their own savings to survive. He is still not talking about whether his government will repay the withdrawals that members made during the pandemic and other natural crisis to survive. He is not telling the members of the fund whether the Government or employers would refund to the workers the reduction of employer contributions from 10% to 5% and now 6% now that employers are back on their feet. These cuts are tantamount to a wage cut and continues.
The AG talks about a “sophisticated analysis” which sounds hollow in the face of the state of our economy which he manages relying heavily on aid and budget support loans and grants from our neighbors. The increasing poverty and extreme poverty levels, unemployment, decline in real wage of the majority of workers including civil servants, increase in crime and suicides, a failed health services, mass termination of workers in WAF, Fiji Airways and ATS like never seen in Fiji’s history and the list goes on. We have also witnessed and experienced the serious contraction in our democratic space like the freedom of speech, assembly, political rights, freedom of association, denial of workers’ rights, press freedom, again the list goes on. Of course, the most important of all is the imposition of the Fiji Constitution with so many limitations to rights and which only protects those that were responsible for the 2006 coup and any actions taken by them or their supporters up until 2014 without any exceptions. It is time we did an analysis of our human rights under this AG and his Government. This is no time for the AG to lecture as he normally does but to listen and learn.
The Fiji Trades Union Congress takes its responsibility to workers in Fiji, whether they are union members or not, very seriously and will continue to advocate for them whenever and wherever the need arises. There is no need for sophistication to disguise the real issues. The AG needs to be schooled in trade union advocacy so that Fiji does not become an embarrassment in the international arena. An analysis since 2014 of the ILO Committee of Experts Reports on Fiji may well serve as a good example.
Photo Credit – The Fiji Times.