ITF Demands Fiji Union Leader's Release

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) today demanded the immediate release of arrested Fijian union leader Felix Anthony.

Anthony is general secretary of the Fiji Trade Union Congress and the ITF-affiliated Fiji Sugar and General Workers' Union.

The arrest follows his long running campaign to warn about the Fijian government's plans to muzzle the country's free trade union movement.

In September Fiji's military-led government implemented a decree designed to virtually outlaw trade union activities. The Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree 2011 was enacted despite months of protests and warnings across the Asia Pacific region that it is illegal, indefensible and greatly inhibits any attempt to return the nation to democracy.

Already this year several trade unionists have been arrested or beaten up. In March Felix Anthony reported that he had been attacked by military officers, leading to international trade union protests.

Reacting to his arrest, ITF president Paddy Crumlin said: "It's just a few months since Felix was here in Sydney to warn us that the Fijian government was looking for ways to crush key unions.

"He knew the risks he faced for drawing attention to their plans but it didn't stop him returning home to keep up the fight. Now it's got him arrested. On behalf of all of those he met I can promise that we will now be taking up the fight on his behalf."

David Cockroft, ITF general secretary, added: "We expect and demand nothing less than a speedy release from detention for Felix. Trade unions are at this moment mobilising to shame and pressure the Fijian government.

Tony Sheldon, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union of Australia (TWU) said: "This is a desperate move by a despotic regime. We can promise them that our union, global unions and unions worldwide will ensure that the rights of workers will be defended."

Fiji's government was installed by a coup in 2006. In 2009 the then president suspended the country's constitution, dismissed the Court of Appeal and introduced public emergency regulations. These restrict freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly and have reportedly been used alongside a campaign of intimidation to silence opposition.