An open letter to Prime Minister of Republic of Fiji: Release the National Secretary of the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC) and Union Members of the National Union of Workers (NUW)

2 May 2019

Hon. Josaia V. Bainimarama

Prime Minister

Republic of Fiji

Request to Release the National Secretary of the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC) and Union Members of the National Union of Workers (NUW)

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) representing 200,000 members in Hong Kong, we would like to express our serious concern about the arrest of Mr. Felix Anthony, National Secretary of the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC) as well as 29 members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) who are employees of the Water Authority of Fiji, along with 1 union staff.

HKCTU is extremely shocked to know that Mr. Anthony was arrested on 1st May at 4.20 pm from the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Conference Room in Suva during a tripartite meeting, witnessed by representatives of government, employers and ILO officials.  Mr. Anthony, who is also the President of our organisation, the ITUC-AP, is currently being held in custody at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Suva and accused of breaching the Public Order Act. Uncannily, the arrest came ahead of planned nationwide union events on 3 and 4 May and Mr. Anthony was also supposed to represent the workers of the NUW in a tribunal hearing of the Water Authority case today.     

This morning, we were informed by the FTUC that workers and members continue to be intimidated. The police are stationed out in numbers of the roads on both sides of the FTUC building as well in the tent where the workers had gathered.   

Mr. Prime Minister,

Freedom of Association is one of the primary safeguards of peace and social justice. Workers have the right to express their views and defend their interest, including through peaceful demonstration, in an atmosphere free of fear, coercion, repression and violence. The arrest and detention, even if only briefly, of trade union leaders or members for trade union activities is contrary to the principle of freedom of association. Fiji, as an ILO member State, has committed to respect, promote and realise the fundamental principles and rights and work.  Moreover, by ratifying ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise in 2002, Fiji explicitly accepted an international legal obligation to respect the principles enshrined in the Convention.

Therefore, we write to request your immediate interventions:

  1. To immediately drop all charges against Mr. Felix Anthony and the 29 NUW union members, along with 1 union staff, and release them unconditionally;
  2. To stop repressing the union leaders and members to express their views and defend their interest; and   
  3. To engage in good faith negotiation with the FTUC leadership to agree on a peaceful and constructive way out of the current crisis at the Water Authority.

We anticipate your swift action and quick reply.

 

Yours sincerely,

Lee Cheuk Yan

General Secretary

Cc. Ms. Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC

       Mr. Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary, ITUC-AP

       Mr. Felix Anthony, National Secretary, FTUC, Fiji