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Statement On The Fiji TV One "Close –Up" Interview

Press Statement By Fiji's Permanent Secretary for Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment In response to the interview of the President of the Confederation of the Public Sector Unions, Mr Rajeshwar Singh with the Fiji TV One "Close –Up Programme on Sunday 13th July 2008

In response to the interview of the President of the Confederation of the Public Sector Unions, Mr Rajeshwar Singh with the Fiji TV One "Close –Up Programme on Sunday 13th July 2008, the Permanent Secretary for Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment,Mr Taito Waqa,said that Mr Singh was not acting in good faith on his claims that he will win backdating pay restoration of his members in the Tribunal as well as his comments on the composition and functions of the Tripartite Forum.

Mr Singh should know by now, that under the 2008 Employment Relations Code of Good Faith for Collective Bargaining ("the code"), he should exhaust all avenues of dialogue and good with negotiations with the employer, since the matters raised by him are currently under the discussion between the parties.

He has also breached Clause 4.20 of the Code by prematurely disclosing on TV One Close –Up Programme last Sunday Information pertaining to issues still under consultations without prior approval of the parties. The content and manner of his media statement also undermines the collective bargaining process.

Mr Waqa cited that, Clause 4.20 of the Code stipulates that-

"The provision of any media release or disclosure of information by either of the parties-

awithout prior approval of the parties; or
b the content or manner f which undermines the collective bargaining process;

constitutes breach of faith."

By his media out bursts, Mr Singh has effectively undermined the collective bargaining process,which constitutes a breach of good faith. It would be prudent for Mr Singh to note the provisions of Clauses 5.1 and 5.2 of the code regarding concerns and actions that can be taken by any party to remedy any breach of the code.

Mr Waqa clarified that collective bargaining under the new Employment Relations Promulgation 2008 is a different 'ball game' altogether from the previous 'table thumping' bad faith behaviour of some trade unionists or employers.

In fact Clause 4.16 of the Code stipulates that "even though the parties have come to a stand still or reached a deadlock about a matter,they must continue to meet, consider and respond to each other's proposals on other matters."

The fact is that, the trade dispute on the matter of pay restoration has not been referred by the Permanent Secretary to the Tribunal as alleged by Mr Singh,since dialogue with the Public Service Commission has not been exhausted as of Mr Singh's appearance on Close Up Programme on 13th July 2008.

On this note , the Permanent Secretary is looking forward for both parties to amicably resolve resolve the pending disputes in the spirit of good faith.

On the Tripartite Forum, Mr Waqa pointed out that its establishment is at the discretion of the Government, at the calling of the Minister for Labour. He must be appreciative of the fact that the Minister for Labour, Industrial Relations, Employment, Local Government,Urban Development,Housing and Environment Hon Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi, on his own accord and judgment made representation to Cabinet for the establishment of the Forum, which Cabinet has recently approved.

Therefore,the Forum's formation will be determined only by Government at a time that suits national interests according to the discretion of Government without the dictate of any other parties.

In this regard, Mr Waqa advises that the bad faith behaviour displayed by Mr Singh may precipitate or jeopardize any movement by Government towards the formation of the Forum to discuss and resolve any Labour matters of national importance.

In fact, Mr Singh's comments on this composition chairmanship and possible agenda of the Forum are condescending to the line Minister and Government. His remarks are mistimed and unwarranted,which also constitute breaches of good faith.

On a general note, it was quite evident that Mr Singh lost track of the interview and that the TV personnel got the better of him when he cleverly diverted from the topic of public sector reforms to getting him to voice his views on the achievements of the current Government.

It has been a long way from December 2006 and Government,employers, workers and unions have moved on since the coming onto force of the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 on 2nd April this year.

The rules have changes and the emphasis now is on good faith employment relationships and productivity improvement in the workplace. Referring disputes to the Tribunal is the end of the process, as mediation and not adjudication should be attempted by the parties at all levels of the disputes.

Taito Waqa
Permanent Secretary for Labour,Industrial Relations and Employment.

ENDS

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