On 29 May 2017, the Fiji Trades Union Congress launched its new phase of the Organizing Project to support workers’ organizations in Fiji and to build their capacities through Organising and Collective Bargaining.
The FTUC National President, Bro Daniel Urai opened the workshop by identifying issues and challenges faced by workers when addressing disputes and grievances within the Ministry’s framework. These are backlog of cases and resource constraints of the Ministry, Knowledge gap, Victimisation of union membership, Individual contracts; and the lack of cooperation from management on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention and Collective Bargaining.
In addition, Guest Speaker Bro Satoshi Sasaki, Decent Work Specialist and Officer-In-Charge for the ILO Office for Pacific Island Countries, Suva observed that existence of laws does not necessary mean to secure the realization of the rights of the people. He stated that that is why workers needed the legal information to fight for their rights. Bro Sasaki reaffirmed the ILO support towards the implementation of the MOU signed between the tripartite partners to review the ERP in 2016 and that ILO is ready to provide technical expertise to make this possible.
Bro. Sasaki, Sis Jotika Sharma Senior Specialist in Workers Activities, Bangkok and members of the FTUC Executive Board launched the new phase of the project with ILO ACTRAV with a cake cutting ceremony.
The objectives of the two (2) day training workshop were to:
- build on skills of trade union leaders in advocacy and representation in Tribunal and Employment Court;
- Empower trade union leaders on the employment dispute resolution mechanisms under ERP; and
- Maintain network of labour lawyers to assist in compiling and presenting workers grievances and labour disputes at arbitration and court.
Speakers and officials attended the workshop from the Ministry of Employment Productivity & Industrial Relations, Fiji Employers & Commerce Federation and the Legal Fraternity who spoke on subjects relating to their respective professions and addressing the title of the workshop. 28 participants attended from within the FTUC affiliation represented by Union Organisers, IR Officers, FTUC Executives and members from the FTUC Women and Youth committee.
Sister Jotika Sharma, Senior Specialist in Workers Activities, Bangkok shared and provided an overview on the expectations and outcomes on FTUC & ACTRAV – ILO collaboration in Promoting Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining to Strengthen Workers Organizations (FTUC) in Fiji.
Bro. Arun Prasad, General Secretary of the National Union of Trade Union Workers and IR Officer for Fiji Teachers Union and Bro. Rouhit Karan Singh, President of the Fiji Local Government Officers, shared their experience on utilizing the Dispute/Grievance Resolution Systems.
Mr. Mathew Young, Legal practitioner and Managing Partner for Axis Pacific Lawyers, Fiji presented session on how to prepare effective cases from a legal perspective.
Mr. Kameli Batiweti, representative from the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation, and Chairperson of the Human Resources Council presented a session on Good Faith Bargaining and Expectations of Social Partners. His presentation was broken down in to four parts that were Objects, Good Faith, Bargaining and Collective Agreement. The participants have to ask questions and general comments were raised in terms of employer’s views for the proposed National Minimum Wage of $2.68/hr and had discussions with the presenter with individual and organizational comments.
Mr. Aman Ravindra Singh, Barrister & Solicitor for Aman Ravindra Singh Lawyers, demonstrated his session on Effective Advocacy and Legal Tools for effective Advocacy. He illustrated on effective advocacy, better skills, case preparation, and case presentation, stronger and effective advocate and legal tools for effective advocacy, legal research, case law, submission research, and writing legal interpretation.
Mr. Noel Tofinga, IR Consultant, Fiji Commence and Employers Federation, delivered his session on Labour Law Reform/Amendments /ERP – Examining the Right to Strike. expertise conducted his session with a group exercise. The participants were put in groups and asked to refer and identify to parts and sections of the ERP some of the sections referred to were Section 4 Definition of “DISPUTE” (Definition of “Employment Dispute”, Section 166 (Registering and enforceability of CA), Section 175 & Section 191BN (Mandate to strike).
Last but not the least Mr. Tomasi Keni, Mediator, Ministry of Employment Productivity and Industrial Relations spoke on the process the Dispute Resolution Processes under the non- essential services. The focus of the presentation from the ministry was Part 19 of the ERA, which talked about employment Grievance; here the four D’s was Dismissal, Disadvantaged Duress and Sexual Harassment. The participants questions in terms of the Individual Grievance and worker process, transparency of the labour officers, enforcement of law, why there is inconsistency in awards and the duration taken to make decision at mediation services.
The workshop marked a new era in revamping the network of IR practitioners within the trade union circle by developing recommendations through the process of identifying challenges, listing provisions and that needs strengthening for effective grievance and dispute resolution process at ministerial level. Participants also looked into new provisions that could be included in the next review of the ERP (ERA).
Finally, an action plan was developed listing activities of best practice in IR advocacy, role of the National Centre and the role of the Individual unions.
Some key recommendations are as follows:
- The need for more Social dialogue in promoting IR advocacy
- More exposure and practical training is need in terms of representation at Mediation Services, Employment Relations Tribunal and Employment Court.
- Follow up training on IR advocacy
- Training on Court proceeding tools and techniques
- The FTUC to develop resources material for example Mini ERP guide, Newsletters
- Create and develop and maintain a database for Disputes and Grievances
- Unions to share database of success stories/ awards with the National Center
- To maintain the network of IR Practitioners that was developed in this training and in the training conducted by Ms. Christine Nathan, Regional Education Specialist, ILO Bangkok Office and Ms. Ramapriya Gopalakrishnan, High Court Advocate of Madras, India in and this follow up training was needed to revamp the network that was developed.