Fiji Wages Council Must be Independent and Consult Workers

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is pleased to learn that the labour and

employment minister in Fiji’s

military regime has drawn attention to dire working conditions for media

personnel in Fiji

and highlighted a significant role for unions in positively addressing the urgent

need to improve conditions.

 

It was reported on October 6 that the cabinet of Fiji’s

military government approved a proposal by the minister for Labour,

Industrial Relations and Employment, Filipe Bole, to establish a Wages Council

to introduce regulations on the terms and conditions of employment in the media

industry.

 

Bole reportedly told the Cabinet that Fiji’s journalists and other media workers

do not have the benefit of enforceable measures to protect basic minimum standards

of working conditions and wages, which has resulted in an underpaid and

undervalued industry.

 

Bole was reported to have said the lack of protection was

compounded by the absence of unions in the workplace.

 

While the IFJ welcomes any move by power-holders to

assure journalists and media workers of fair and decent working conditions, it

is concerned that regulatory measures to address such issues must be

established through transparent, democratic and consultative processes

involving workers’ representatives.

 

The IFJ urges Fiji’s power-holders to take into

account the following basic minimum requirements of a Wages Council that genuinely

supports the rights of workers:

  •       Assurance of the council’s full independence and freedom from political interference.
  • ­          All relevant stakeholders are represented by individuals whom they nominate, including representation for workers.
  • ­          Appointment of council members with proven relevant experience.
  • ­          Legitimate legal environment and transparent processes; all submissions published and available to the public.
  • ­          Established mandate to improve workers’ rights and conditions, with mechanisms to prevent decisions that would reduce workers’ rights or conditions (such as through arbitrary dismissals and denial of opportunities).
  • ­          Through open consultation, council decisions should constitute the minimum standards of pay and working conditions (with no maximum cap).
  • ­          These decisions are best locked in through collective agreements between workers’ representatives, or media unions, and managements.
  • ­          The council must have discretion to examine sources of revenue of media units and to recommend norms for fair distribution of at least government spending on advertising.
  • ­          Mechanisms are needed to ensure outcomes are binding on employers.

 

In view of the Fiji regime’s efforts through 2009 to

restrict freedom of the media, freedom of expression and freedom of association,

the IFJ believes that any action genuinely intended to improve working

conditions for journalists and media workers in Fiji must, at the very least, be

preceded by a full reversal of the officially enforced censorship that currently

underpins an extremely stressful working environment for Fiji’s media

personnel.

 

 

“Regulatory mechanisms that establish and protect basic

minimum requisites for employment, including basic rates of pay, job security

and recognition of professional standards, are to be welcomed and would

ordinarily indicate respect for the media’s important social role in keeping a community

informed,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White

said.

 

“However, a commitment to support improved working

conditions in Fiji’s

media industry must be backed by the assurance of free and independent

association, and the right of workers to organise and for their representatives

to negotiate collectively.

 

“If Fiji’s

military regime is serious about improving the situation for media personnel in

Fiji,

it needs also to ensure that media professionals and journalists’ organisations

are fully consulted and assured of their right to form free and independent

trade unions in workplaces.”

 

Under

emergency regulations in force in Fiji

since April, Fiji’s

media is forbidden to publish or broadcast anything that censors perceive to be

negative about the regime or its actions. Official censors, some of whom are

police, are now posted in all media outlets.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide