Global union federation the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) is disturbed to learn of the refusal by the Fijian government to allow Australian and New Zealand union representatives entry to the country for the purposes of a fact finding mission.
According to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) the delegation - led by their President Ged Kearney - had planned a three-day mission to investigate the worsening human and labour rights record in Fiji. However, on arrival at Fiji's Nadi Airport the group was denied entry to the country and sent directly back to Sydney.
ITF President and Maritime Union of Australia National Secretary Paddy Crumlin commented: "The human rights of all Fijians are being wilfully abused by the Bainimarama military regime. This is yet another example of unacceptable behaviour from a military dictatorship which is drunk on power and it needs to be brought in line."
He went on to say: "The ITF will continue to fight for the rights of Fijians by taking solidarity action in conjunction with international unions, human rights activists and community support groups. Unionists from around the world are outraged by the continued repression of human and workers' rights by the Bainimarama military regime."
ITF general secretary David Cockroft added: "The ITF has been standing in solidarity with Fijian trade unionists as they struggle to deal with reported intimidation and infringement of their freedom of expression. Barring union representatives from witnessing the current reality of life in Fiji with their own eyes, only acts to alert the international community further to the potential violations of human and labour rights taking place in the country."
The delegation's visit was in response to an open invitation from the Fijian government and requests from workers and ordinary Fijians to investigate serious allegations of repeated breaches of human and labour rights by the government. There had been hopes of a meeting with Prime Minister Bainimarama to signify the beginning of a fresh dialogue over human and labour rights which have reportedly been severely repressed since the then President Iloilo suspended the country's constitution, dismissed the Court of Appeal and introduced Public Emergency Regulation in April 2009.
In April 2011 the ITF launched a solidarity campaign after Felix Anthony, the general secretary of ITF-affiliated Fiji Sugar and General Workers' Union, was attacked, allegedly by military officers.
In addition, the ITF condemned the Bainimarama regime for its introduction of The Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree 2011, designed to virtually outlaw trade union activities. The decree was made law in September despite months of protests and warnings from across the Asia Pacific region that it is illegal, indefensible and dooms any attempt to return the nation to democracy.