Union leadership at Fiji’s National Union of Hospitality Catering and Tourism Industries (NUHCTI) celebrated as police charges against their ‘illegal strike’ were dropped on February 2.
The ITF-affiliated union’s president, Dan Urai, was one of six union leaders charged by the military dictatorship on January 9 – despite the fact that the union had entered negotiations with management following the brief industrial action a week before the arrests were made. Urai maintains that he doesn’t know why he and the other workers were arrested and that they have never been given a satisfactory explanation.
Following international protests, the Fijian director of public prosecutions dropped all charges against the workers.
The illegitimate Fijian military government has a reputation for anti-union behaviour, with reports of union leaders being intimidated and even assaulted at military barracks back in 2011. The ITF-affiliated Fiji Sugar & General Workers’ Union, Transport Workers’ Union and Fiji Public Service Association have all been on the receiving end of anti-union aggression.
In January 2013 the ITF joined the global outcry when the military regime introduced the Fiji Political Parties Decree – aimed at wiping out political opposition and forbidding trade unionists from even showing support for a political party. The timing of this decree, issued just days after the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) launched a new political party that would include trade unions, is not thought to be coincidental.
ITF president Paddy Crumlin hailed this latest victory: “Unions the world over have united and joined in protest at this flagrant abuse of workers’ rights, showing once again that my brothers’ and sisters’ struggle is my struggle and that workers will not be walked over. With its history of workers’ rights abuses, we’ll continue to keep an eye on the situation in Fiji – and we won’t hesitate to take every legitimate action to protect our fellow workers.”