WORKERS RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS

The National Federation Party says since workers’ rights are human rights, it stands shoulder to shoulder in the march in Nadi this Saturday and in full support of the locked-out Air Terminal Services workers who have been prevented from returning to work in a company that they have 49% shares for, for the past 27 days.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said while regrettably he won’t be in Nadi on Saturday as he is in India attending the PIO Parliamentary Conference with the other two NFP Members of Parliament–Honourable Parmod Chand and Honourable Prem Singh—an event also attended by some Indo-Fijian Government MPs, he has urged all NFP members and well-wishers to show solidarity by participating in the march.

“Throughout our 54-year history we have always supported any legitimate and lawful action to highlight the plight and grievances of our ordinary workers and aggrieved citizens. Saturday’s march is no exception and our Vice President in Nadi Mr Faizal Koya will lead the NFP supporters along with our Nadi stalwarts”.

“It is important to show solidarity towards the ATS workers who are victims of heavy-handed Government appointees and the ATS Management’s dictatorial and authoritarian decisions in total defiance of the law which requires the Employment Minister to describe the lockout as illegal”.

“We have sighted a Memorandum dated 16th December 2017, in which the acting ATS CEO instructed the ATS security officers not to allow ATS workers who on that day had gone to have their shareholders meeting, to enter the premises until further notice. The memorandum is signed by the acting CEO, Mr Hari Mani”.

“Despite the existence of this memorandum that clearly ordered the Security Officers and the Managers to execute the lock out, the Employment Minister failed abysmally in his duty to declare the lockout illegal and instead declared the workers’ action as illegal. This seemingly all points to the regulatory capture and collusion between the Government and all their appointees”.

“It is gravely preposterous that the Employment Minister in a later statement said he agreed with the Management’s action, thereby clearly showing his partiality and inability to act as a mediator”.

“Therefore, those who have the rights and freedoms of workers at heart should come and fully show their support and solidarity towards the ATS workers inhumanely locked out in the drains, and their families”.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

Attached: ATS Acting CEO Memorandum

NFP Leader – Workers Rights are Human Rights – Media Release

ATS Actg CEO Memorandum

NFP President Queries Continued Late Release of 2017 Census Results

The National Federation Party has questioned the continued lateness of the 2017 Census results as promised by the Bureau of Statistics office from the end of December last year.

“It’s concerning that this standard taxpayer funded exercise is not being made fully and publicly available to the taxpayers despite the multiple assurances made thus far”, said NFP President Pio Tikoduadua

“We note a Fiji Broadcasting Corporation news report today that the census findings have been finalised and is currently with the Attorney-General & Chief Legal Advisor to the Government, A/Minister for Education, Minister for Economy, Public Enterprises, Civil Service and Communications for his perusal.

“Perhaps the Prime Minister as the Head of Government should step in, since the line Minister is on holiday abroad campaigning, and release the results as this critical data is essential for nation-building and resourcing prioritisation.

Releasing these results will do much to make an independent office like the Bureau of Statistics office NOT look like liars.”

Authorised by:

Pio Tikoduadua

NFP President

NFP President queries late release of Census results

Delay in special cane payment unacceptable

The National Federation Party has slammed the Fiji Sugar Corporation for delaying the payout of the $3.05 per tonne special cane payment and has demanded that the FSC make the payout immediately as it was withheld last year specifically to be paid well before the start of the 2018 school year.

NFP General Secretary Jagannath Sami says when the final cane payment for the 2016 season of 44 cents was topped up by $9.15 by Government last October, FSC had announced that a sum of $3.05 per tonne would be paid well before the start of the 2018 school year.

“This has not been done and cane growers and their families are struggling to purchase school necessities for their children because the new school year starts   on January 15th, which is next Monday”.

“FSC should immediately release the payment. It is not from their share of proceeds but taxpayers’ funds and has been clearly intended to assist our growers”.

“Furthermore, there should not be any deductions whatsoever from this special payment, unlike last October when more than 70% or around 9,000 growers were virtually left penniless due to deductions from the final payment of $2016”.

“We also call on the Minister for Sugar who is the Prime Minister to direct FSC to firstly make the payment immediately and secondly refrain from making any deductions”.

“Furthermore, the PM and the Sugar Cane Growers Council should write to the commercial lending institutions and the Sugar Cane Growers Fund not to make any deductions for debt repayment”.

Authorised by:

Jaganath Sami

NFP General Secretary

 NFP General Secretary slams FSC

PM parroting same tune

The Prime Minister Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama is parroting the same tune as his subordinate the Attorney General and the Chairman of Air Terminal Services in attacking politicians and unionists who have visited and assisted the locked-out workers and ATS shareholders, says the National Federation Party.

NFP Leader Professor Prasad said it was highly unfortunate that honourable Bainimarama chose the opening of a taxpayers’ funded project in Tailevu to accuse and malign politicians and unionists, who amongst many others like the vanua and religious groups have been visiting and providing assistance to the workers locked out by ATS Management for the last three weeks.

“The PM is parroting the same tune as the Attorney General and the Chairman of ATS who happens to be the AG’s brother. All three are speaking the same language, blatantly disregarding the plight of the workers who are 49% shareholders in ATS, turning a blind eye to breaches of Companies Act and mismanagement, and deliberately ignoring the serious error of his Employment and Industrial Relations Minister in the handling of the impasse”.

“Here is a Prime Minister who has done the very opposite of what he has been preaching – common and equal citizenry and that no one will be left behind. His remarks are a kick in the guts of the workers and their families who together with their children spent Christmas and New Year in tents”.

“The PM has called us cheap politicians. Yes, we are cheap in the sense that we are not on a salary of over $328,000 annually, do not get an average of $3000 daily in allowances for overseas travel and always fly first class when traveling overseas like him”.

“We are cheap because we earn only $50,000 per year, use our personal resources to help the needy in whatever little form we can and have provided humanitarian assistance to the ATS workers to bring smiles to their faces and those of their families and children during the festive season, unlike him, his subordinate the AG and his brother”.

“We wear this as a badge of honour”.

Authorised by: –

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP Leader responds to PM- Jan 2018

LTA’s Regulatory Enforcement is Draconian and Inhumane

The National Federation Party says the ultimatum by Land Transport Authority to road haulage companies in the country to clear their backlog of $5 million worth of fines for overloading will put great financial pressure on the companies and severely impact their operations.

NFP President Pio Tikoduadua says the $5 million was accumulated through a fine of $1000.00 per tonne in excess of the stipulated weight of a vehicle.

“LTAs hostile fine collection approaches that are targeting small and medium owned enterprises is burdening them with unrealistic timelines”.

“While we appreciate that the Land Transport Authority is mandated by law to ensure safe and orderly travel on our national roads, the NFP is inundated with complaints from SMEs in the private sector who they feel are being unjustly shackled with undue pressure to cough up these huge fines”.

“One such example is the Fiji Road Haulage Association (RHA), whose members are the lifeblood of mobility of goods in our economy. The RHA has been liaising on behalf of its members to secure an amnesty period for the payment of $5M fines from the deadline of to 15 January 2018”.

“While NFP acknowledges that haulage takes a toll on the wear and tear on the roads, and that the RHA must pay its fair share of the use of the roads, there must surely be a more consultative way forward”.

“Furthermore, where overloading is concerned, surely the involvement of the Fiji Roads Authority makes sense”.

“More concerning is that RHA members who have fines pending will suffer to pay a penalty of another 50% if they do not pay by 15 January 2018. How is this unilateral approach a fair way to regulate?”

“RHA members are being strong-armed into paying these fines “under protest” before the 15 January 2018 deadline, while they consider legal action”.

“In addition to the LTA levying a 50% interest rate on top of unpaid fines by the due date, the LTA’s revised laws also empower them to issue departure stoppage or they are black-listed from leaving the country”.

“The heavy hand of regulatory capture is now running roughshod on the private sector and serious questions now arise as to how the economy can expect to sustain over-regulation such as this”.

 

Authorised by:

Pio Tikoduadua

NFP President

Mob: 7196802

NFP President- LTA fines will kill SME’s

NFP Leader questions ATS Management on whether returning workers are being Victimised

The National Federation Party has questioned the Management and Board of Air Terminal Services to come out clean on whether they are victimising those locked out employees who have returned to work by telling them they will not have any pay rise and employment promotion for the next two years.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says if this is true, then the Board and Management of ATS is also discriminating those who have a 49% stake in the company.

“We have been reliably informed that those who were locked out more than two weeks ago and have chosen to return to work have been told that they will not be given any pay rise or promotion at work. This is victimisation and discrimination”.

“We ask the ATS Board and Management to come out clean on the issue. We also believe that the Management also stated that those workers who walked out would not be paid for the duration of the lock-out and would be subjected to disciplinary measures upon their return to work”.

“So far, we have seen that ATS Board, Management and the Employment Opportunities, Productivity and Industrial Relations Minister have defiantly and illegally treated this as a strike issue”.

“It is not. It is purely 49 percent of shareholders in ATS expressing concern at how the company is being run and seeking justice”.

“It is shocking that the honourable Minister is not correcting his decision to declare the walkout by workers who are shareholders to attend a meeting as a strike. For argument’s sake, even if the Minister is right, then then he should also order that the workers return to work immediately”.

“He either failed to or deliberately did not do this. He also either failed to or deliberately did not declare the lock-out by ATS Board and Management illegal”.

“This is giving rise to perception that the honourable Minister is dancing to the tune of the Management and the Board”.

“To dispel this perception, the honourable Minister must do the right thing”.

“While the rest of Fiji celebrated Christmas and New Year, the workers, their families and children spent the festive season in tents. This impasse must end and nobody should be victimised and discriminated including those who have opted to return to work”.

“No one must be compelled into saying or signing any document, including the letters as unlawfully required by ATS”.

 “And more importantly, the honourable Prime Minister who has advocated globally to finding solutions through Talanoa, should spearhead the same to end this impasse”.

“He has been consistently saying that under his leadership no one will be left behind. He should put this to practice and ensure that no ATS worker is victimised”.

 

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP Leader- Are ATS workers being victimised_

FIJI NEEDS SOUND AND SENSIBLE LEADERSHIP: NFP

The governance of Fiji needs to take a new direction in 2018 for all our citizens to witness genuine parliamentary democracy and full restoration of fundamental human rights and freedoms that are prerequisites for real social, political and economic advancement of our nation.

To ignore fundamental problems that plague our nation would be doing so at our own peril. In Fiji, calling everyone Fijians and saying they enjoy common and equal citizenry doesn’t guarantee fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech, freedom of association, worker rights, political rights, permanent tenure of employment particularly in the civil service, and freedom of the media.

Common and equal citizenry also does not guarantee job opportunities based on meritocracy, rendering common and equal citizenry meaningless. It does not guarantee decent and meaningful living wage. It does not guarantee timely and efficient delivery of medical services and dispensation of the required medicine. It does not guarantee a reduction in cost of living.

There are many other challenges we face as a community and as a nation that can only be overcome through genuine unity, bipartisanship and sound and sensible leadership.

This is what the NFP will do in 2018, which is going to be a defining and momentous year for Fiji. The decisions we make and the actions we take collectively as a unified harmonious force will have a profound effect on all of us and our future generations.

A New Year is naturally the culmination of the festive season. It is a time of rejoicing, reflection, making resolutions and welcoming the New Year with celebrations in a spirit of togetherness and harmony.

It is also a time to remember the sick and the infirm, the less fortunate and all those unable to celebrate New Year with the same passion and vigour as others due to various reasons, particularly the locked-out workers of Air Terminal Services who are 49% shareholders in the company.

Together with their families and children, they spent Christmas as well as are spending New Year in tents outside a company they co-own with Government.

At the same time, the Prime Minister’s absolute silence on an issue that has dragged on for over two weeks, is shocking. Any leader of a nation should be concerned about an impasse that is not only affecting workers but their children and families.

The best start to the New Year would be for the Prime Minister to intervene and order ATS Board and Management to allow the workers who are shareholders to freely return to work without loss of pay and benefits and also order an independent inquiry in the operations of ATS.

As a party born out of the struggle for dignity and justice of all our people 54 years ago, the NFP will continue the struggle for our beloved nation to once again become a beacon of hope and trust.

Change is coming. Change is inevitable.

We wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous and blessed 2018.

 

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

Fiji needs sound and sensible leadership – NFP Leader

Abhorrent Breaches of Companies Act by ATS Board Overpayment to Fiji Airways

The National Federation Party says the Board of Air Terminal Services this year overpaid Fiji Airways by $2.5 million contrary to the damage assessment of $535,000 carried out by ATS’s insurers, after a Fiji Airways A330 airplane suffered damage during cargo handling by ATS.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said this issue was raised by Directors of ATS on the Board who were representing ATS Employees Trust (ATSET) who hold 49% of shares in the company.

“The ATS Board and its unelected Chairman authorised a payment of $3 million to Fiji Airways. The insurers of ATS, the world reputable firm of Lloyds of London, had assessed the damage to the aircraft to be worth only $535,000”.

“This is one of the many issues of the ATS Board breaching the Companies Act of 2015, and had duly raised it in a Board paper given to the ATS Board at its meeting of 22nd May 2017. The three ATSET Directors on the Board at that time of the discovery of these breaches were Manasa Ratuvili, Kevueli Tunidau and Jai D Singh as Alternate Director”.

“Soon after that meeting which ended abruptly, the two ATSET Directors plus the Alternate Director were dubiously removed from the board, leaving ATSET representation of 49% shares limited to only one director, while Government as 51% shareholder has four directors”.

Professor Prasad said the three ATSET Directors who were represented at the meeting of 22 May 2017 told the Board that it had made a “serious error in judgment in entertaining the demand by Fiji Airways”.

“The Board paper presented by ATSET Directors states that Fiji Airways initially demanded $12 million, after which it was then reduced to $6.4 million and then a settlement was reached for $3 million.

That settlement term was made by the appointed but unelected Chairman, the other Government Members and its than ATSET directors, who were then replaced by ATSET and told in no uncertain terms to show cause for their action. They knowingly and willingly took that decision knowing full well that the insurers had assessed the liability to be only worth $535,000 of damage”.

“More seriously, however is that Fiji Airways had intimidated ATS to pay up. The ATSET paper to the ATS Board states that the airline demanded the money as an “irrefutable claim” and threatened to take away ground handling services from ATS if the money was not paid”.

“The ATSET Directors pointed out that this was blatant blackmail by Fiji Airways as a client of ATS, and the Board wilfully failed to protect the rights of shareholders which are the taxpayers, and the 49% employee-owner shareholders”.

Professor Prasad said this was a very serious issue, that undermined the commercial interest of shareholders – both public and private.

“Government has allowed this and other serious breaches of the Companies Act (http://www.parliament.gov.fj/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Act-No-3-Companies.pdf) to happen and seems to have deliberately turned a blind eye, and in the first instance breached the ATS Articles of Association, by appointing a Chairman when the Chair is elected by the Board”.

Professor Prasad said the saga at ATS led to the ATSET shareholders meeting to deliberate on the serious issues before, and for which they have been unfairly punished by being locked out of their own company.

“Two weeks have lapsed since the start of the impasse. The aggrieved shareholders who are workers spent Christmas day in temporary shelters outside in the drain areas. The issue of why the Prime Minister has not uttered a word or intervened like his predecessors to resolve an industrial dispute is shocking”.

“Any leader of a nation should be concerned about an impasse that is not only affecting workers but their children and families”.

“We call on the Prime Minister to intervene and order ATS Board and Management to allow the workers who are shareholders to freely return to work without loss of pay and benefits and also order an independent inquiry in the operations of ATS”.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

NFP Leader – ATS breached Companies Act by overpaying Fiji Airways

Human Rights Director and MIDA Chair reeks of political puppetry ~ MIDA Chair breaches his own Law

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad has today hit out at the appalling display of political puppetry by the so-called Director of Human Rights, Ashwin Raj, ably aided and abetted by the FBC ‘Speak Your Mind’ host, Shammi Lal Lochan on their segment which was broadcast on radio on Tuesday, 19 December 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqui15-4SC0 (Speak your Mind Link)

“The ludicrous situation where a public servant clearly colludes with host of a show of the State broadcaster, FBC — the head of whom is Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the younger brother to the Attorney General who is already reeling under public disquiet on his handling of the ATS employee-owner crisis — to make political statements is so laughable its almost not worth responding to, but we are obligated to respond because taxpayers are not “gullible” as Shammi Lochan suggests, and need to hear a counter view.

The theme of the show was supposed to discuss “hate speech on social media”. As the Director of Human Rights, we expected more maturity and leadership in his responses. The listeners and viewers of the show will not need much convincing whether this is what they witnessed or not.

Ms Lochan’s maladroit attempt to take pot-shots at the NFP and reframe our public statement of 02 April 2017 is politically motivated twaddle with the objective of inferring that NFP is racially segmented or promotes xenophobia. This is grossly defamatory and we will be seeking legal advice on this.

If Shammi is an intending candidate of Fiji First party she should do the honourable thing and resign instead of using the publicly funded airwaves to raise her profile. The people are not “gullible” and see right through this shameless self-promotional marketing, using a similar approach of a former radio announcer of that same station who now sits in Parliament.

Ashwin Raj, on the other hand continues to over-extend himself both as the Director of Human Rights and Chair of the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA). Obviously he confuses himself on which hat he wears on any given day because if he was thinking rationally, instead of using publicly funded air-time to “campaign” on hate speech on social media, he should have exemplified balance and advocated for a wider spread of opinions with more studio guests as per Schedule 1 Media Code of Ethics and Practice, of his OWN enabling MIDA Decree.

Even as the Human Rights Director he of all people should be the first to promote balanced dialogue, instead of hogging the airwaves to promote a skewed worldview on “deliberative democracy”.

If Raj was so concerned about international law and Fiji’s compliance on human rights international law, he should firstly restrict himself to what he can immediately control, and what he is getting paid for, and ensure compliance with the Paris Principles instead of shamelessly kowtowing to the government and speaking with glossy eyes fawning over them.

The State broadcaster FBC, the Human Rights Commission and MIDA all have not tabled Annual Reports in Parliament and are supercilious by not humbling themselves and show accountability to taxpayers funding their operations. This is the height of arrogance that is prevalent from this Government down to their stooges like those we see campaigning for them on public funds.

The Chair of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission must remove Ashwin Raj immediately. Furthermore, the Prime Minister should remove him as the MIDA Chair.

He has failed to uphold his independence or at least try to show it in the public domain and serious questions arise as to his competence for both roles and his self-aggrandised continuous use of 4 syllabled words is an indictment of his inability to communicate effectively.

Ashwin Raj, by advocating for laws to curb hate speech on social media is a thinly veiled attempt to muzzle the negative publicity of this Government, and he should be speaking to Parliament with facts and figures, instead of hogging the airwaves to promote an unsolicited and tyrannical “campaign” with no public mandate.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

Leader

NFP Leader- MIDA Chairman breaches his own law – Dec 2017

A time for hope and salvation: NFP Leader

The National Federation Party sincerely hopes that the significance of Christmas prevails upon all the people of Fiji, particularly those at the helm of our nation.

“Christmas is the Season for Hope, Salvation, Peace and Goodwill among Mankind. Among Christians and non-Christians alike who all celebrate it. It is a time of reflection, it is a time for family and also a time of thanksgiving to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that he embodies”. NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad said.

Professor Prasad said unity and togetherness can only be achieved if our Leaders adhere to the spirit of Christmas. “Unity, peace and togetherness cannot be achieved if our Leaders ignore the mandate that people gave them. Because in a democracy, mandate means listening to the people and alleviating their problems, not riding roughshod over them”.

“It is extremely important to adhere to this principle – Leadership is about averting disaster, not creating conditions in which it thrives”.

Professor Prasad said Government’s handling of the ATS (Air Terminal Services) impasse where workers who are 49% shareholders of company, resulting in them being locked out by the ATS management and fully supported by Government, is an example of imposition that hardened attitudes.

“The impasse was exacerbated because two Ministers of Government, the ATS Board Chair and ATS Management ignored their mandate and were hell-bent on imposing their will upon the workers who are shareholders. It has been a case of My Way or the Highway”.

Professor Prasad said impositions harden attitudes and cause irreparable damage in the long term.

“The NFP hopes that Government has learnt valuable lessons from the ATS impasse, in the spirit of Christmas reflect on its actions, enlighten themselves, and forge a new path of harmonious relations with the workers and the overwhelming majority of the people of Fiji who have clearly supported the just and fair struggle of the ATS workers and 49% shareholders”.

“We wish the people of Fiji a blessed and merry Christmas”.

Authorised by:

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

NFP Leader Christmas Message 2017