ILO mission to Fiji aborted

An ILO direct contacts mission on freedom of association has been obliged to depart from Fiji without having completed its mandate.

Press release | 19 September 2012
An ILO direct contacts mission on freedom of association, mandated by the ILO Governing Body, has been obliged to depart from Fiji without having completed its mandate.

This unexpected and precipitous departure of the mission comes at the request of the Office of the Prime Minister.

The mission has been visiting Fiji at the invitation of the Government in light of various complaints made by the trade unions. It began its programme on Monday, 17 September 2012, based on already-agreed terms of reference with the Government and with an agreed list of senior public officials and representatives from the employers’ organization and national trade union centres. In the midst of its first meeting, with the Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment, the mission was asked to desist from its remaining meetings until further notice.

That evening, the Office of the Prime Minister presented the mission with entirely new terms of reference arguing that unfortunately, as a result of miscommunication between the respective Fijian ministries, the terms of reference provided by the Ministry of Labour did not articulate the correct scope of such a visit. The substantially revised terms were presented as a sine qua non for the conduct of the mission. This was not acceptable.

The ILO mission was mandated by the ILO Governing Body Committee on Freedom of Association and the unanimously adopted Resolution on Fiji of the Asia and Pacific Regional Meeting of December 2011. The proposed new terms of reference set out a point of view of the Government for which it seeks confirmation, and calls into question certain findings and principles of the tripartite Committee on Freedom of Association within which framework the mission was acting. As such, they were considered to represent an unacceptable, significant and serious deviation from the object and purpose of the mission. Efforts by the mission to reach a common understanding on a way forward were to no avail.

In light of the above, the Government requested the mission to leave the country expeditiously so that a new visit, which could heed its proposed terms of reference, could be considered.

Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO, strongly condemned the "Government’s unilateral decision which puts a greater spotlight on the critical situation of freedom of association in Fiji and only fuels international solidarity with the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC), the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions (FICTU), and the Fiji Teachers’ Association (FTA)".

"As always, I call on the Government to reconsider its position and continue collaborating with the ILO on these important matters for the international community." M. Somavia said.