Australian workers rallied in Sydney today to protest against the Fiji military regime's ongoing attacks on workers' rights, including the recent arrest of the President of the Trades Union Congress, Daniel Urai.
The rallies are part of a global day of action co-ordinated by the International Trade Union Confederation, which also includes a web campaign by LabourStart and Australian unions, with thousands of unionists from here and across the globe have already sending protest emails to the Bainimarama Government.
ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said Australians were outraged at the continued repression of human and worker rights by the military regime led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
"It is becoming increasingly unsafe for workers in Fiji to stand up for their rights, which are being removed systematically by Bainimarama as his military seizes control of workplaces," Mr Lawrence said. "We will not sit back and allow the rights of Fijian workers to be trampled by this military regime."
Mr Urai will today appear in the Nadi Magistrates Court, alongside union organiser Nitin Gounder, after their arrest last month apparently for having met with and advised union members about collective negotiations with hotel management. Mr Lawrence said Australian unions condemned the arrest and subsequent court hearing, as a violation of the rights of trade unions and Fiji's international obligations.
In a show of support for workers in Fiji, the ACTU Executive recently resolved to support Fijian unions, including calling on the Bainimarama Government to restore workers' rights by revoking the draconian Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree, and to hold democratic elections.
A delegation from the International Labour Organisation last month travelled to Fiji to investigate serious allegations of human and worker rights violations.
"Independent trade unions are needed in Fiji to deliver decent work to its people, 40% of whom live below the poverty line," Mr Lawrence said.
MUA National Secretary and ITF President Paddy Crumlin also strongly condemned the Fijian Government for its ongoing attacks on the rights of union members and their leaders.
"In Fiji, not only are workers' rights being attacked but union leaders like Daniel Urai are being detained by the regime for speaking out," Mr Crumlin said. "The MUA and ITF have a long history of fighting for the rights of union members around the world and we won't be stopping now."
TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said under the new decree, workers in some sectors had been totally disenfranchised of any rights, including the most fundamental entitlements.
"For instance, a Fijian baggage handler working 50-55 hour week for Qantas would lose up to half their pay, down to less than AU$90 a week. Qantas and Air Pacific just think they should stand by and collect profit. That is simply unacceptable," Mr Sheldon said.