- July 12, 2021
FTUC PRESS RELEASE: CALL FOR DIALOGUE
The Fiji Trades Union Congress is surprised and concerned at the Government’s imposition of the Health and Safety (General Workplace Conditions) Amendment Regulations 2021 without any consultations with the FTUC and Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF). Such imposition of conditions of work must be put to the Employment Relations Advisory Board which is Tripartite and fully discussed. Its implications must be fully examined and above all, to ensure that the fundamental rights under the Bill of Rights of our Constitution is fully complied with. Instead, this Government decided to use the Health and Safety Regulations to impose a new condition of employment, totally disregarding its own laws.
We note that the Government is referring to Section 127 (8) of the Constitution which empowers the Permanent Secretaries to set terms and conditions. However, this power cannot override other provisions of the Constitution specifically Section 3 which ensures that in interpreting the Constitution, one must observe “the values that underlie a democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom”. Further, Section 11 (3) of the Constitution states that every person has the right to freedom from scientific or medical treatment or procedures…” These are provisions that override any power that any Permanent Secretary can claim to have. Section 127 (8) is being misconstrued and must be used in accordance with the labour laws, in particular the Employment Relations Act. Section 6 of this Act does not allow any form of discrimination on many grounds including “state of health real or perceived”. Section 75 of the same Act also prohibits discrimination on grounds of personal characteristics or circumstances including opinion, religion or belief.” The FTUC believes that to deny employment based on a person’s fundamental right is wrong and discriminatory. We oppose the imposition of any such law that would create a very dangerous precedence.
The FTUC encourages workers to get vaccinated but states categorically that it is wrong to make vaccinations mandatory and a condition of employment. We understand that this situation has arisen because the COVID-19 protocols were not fully observed in April this year by a military personnel and Government’s failure to adequately address the situation immediately. This led to the prolonged spread of the virus and the restrictions that became necessary and continue for the unforeseeable future.
Businesses have also put pressure on government to open up and this has resulted in the further spread of the virus and therefore this imposed law to allow businesses to operate. What we see is that the fundamental rights are being compromised to suit some businesses. This need not be so.
We call on Government to stop its autocratic response and enter into dialogue with the aim of educating and informing our people on the vaccinations and not force it upon them. Denial of a family’s livelihood to force the vaccination upon people is a form of coercion and blackmail. We remind government that Fiji is supposed to be a democratic country. The FTUC remains prepared to enter into discussions to remedy this injustice.