ADDRESS BY ATTAR SINGH AT 2018 NFP CANDITATE ANNOUNCEMENT ON 2ND OCTOBER

The president ,

Leader

Members  of  the  management  board  and  selection  committee  of  the  party

Invited  representatives  of  the  community

Ladies  and  gentlemen

Today  marks  the   beginning   of   another   journey   for    me   to   help   end  the  oppression  and  suffering  of  workers  and  the  trade  union  movement  of our  country .

I  have  spent  the  better  part  of  my  life  as  a  trade  unionist  fighting  for workers  rights. And  I  can  say  with  experience  that  there  have  never  been worse  laws  and  labour  practices  than  those  seen  under  the  current government  leadership  since  around  2009.

This  has  been  the  longest  period  of  suppression  of  workers  rights  and wages  while  cost  of  living  has  been  on  the  rise. Ordinary  workers  are finding  it  difficult  to  put  food  on  the  table.

Trade  unions  have  been  under  attack  by  decrees  such  as  essential  services decree  of  2011  that  made  trade  unions  in  essential  services  powerless  with  decades  of  negotiated  benefits  lost  and  access  to  dispute  settling machinery  denied.

Public  sector  unions  were  also  denied  access  to  dispute  settling  machinery. More  recently  they  have  lost  job  security  as  a  result  of  fixed term  Employment  contracts, loss  of  substantive  positions  and  demotions, reduced  retirement  age  and  unfair  wage  adjustments, all  in  the  name  of reforms.

Trade  unions  ability  to  take  strike  action  or  protest  is  now  almost  non existent  under  current  laws. Unions  in  public  and  private  sector  have  been denied  the  right  to  have  their  strike  ballots  supervised  causing  prolonged delays  in  concluding  collective  agreements. Even  simple  protests  and demonstrations  are  not  permissible  under  the  laws.

The  union  movement  has  seen  permits  for  protest  march  through  Suva refused  on  three  separate  occasions  without  valid  reason.

For  all  these  reasons  the  workers  and  trade  unions  are justifiably  angry  and are  seeking justice. They  must  not  be  denied   any  longer.

We  must  have  labour  laws  that  are  consistent  with  international  labour  standards and  that  promote  justice.

The  actions  of  the  current  government  must  be  reversed. Labour  laws  need  to  be  amended  to  restore  trade  union  and  worker  rights  for  all workers. Essential  services  must  be  redefined  in  accordance  with  ILO standards  and  right  to  strike  and  peaceful  demonstrations  restored  and protected  as  fundamental  rights  the  exercise  of  which  must  not  be impaired  by  law  or  practice. Rights  and  benefits  lost  because  of  essential services  decree  must  be  restored  by  law  and  not  be  subject  to  prolonged negotiations  as   has  been  the  case  for public  servants,  airline  workers  and  municipal  workers  for  example.

In  the  public  sector  retirement  age  must  be  restored  to  60  years  and  those  affected  by  the  reduction  suitably  compensated. The  losses,  demotions  and  disadvantages  arising  out  of  recent  reforms  need  to  be corrected  in  full  consultation  with  public  sector  trade  unions.

Fixed  term  Employment  contracts  must  be  made  unlawful  for  all  workers in  public  and  private  sectors  except  for  those  in  higher  management positions.

Collective  bargaining  rights  must  be  fully  restored  for  all  workers  and procedures  simplified  for  resolution  of  disputes.

Every  worker  must  be  legally  entitled  to  a  living  wage   that  enables  him or  her  to  provide  for  basic  necessities  for  the  family. In  this  regard  the NFP’s  $5.00  an  hour  rate  needs  to  be  implemented  at  the  soonest  together  with  measures  to  reduce  cost  of  food  and  other  basic  needs.

The  workers  and  unions  have  suffered  for  too  long  and  are  crying  out  for fairness  and  justice. Clearly  all  this  can’t  be  achieved  without  a  trade unionist  being  elected  to  be  the  workers  voice. It  is  for  these  reasons  that  I  have  resigned  all  my union  positions  to  stand  for  elections  so  that  I  can  advance  the  cause  of workers.

As  stated  by  the  leader  I  could  be  the  only  unionist  contesting  these elections  because  of  the  several  restrictions  imposed  on  us. And  as  much as  many  of  my colleagues would have liked to be present at this announcement  they  are  constrained  by  unjust  laws  from  being  here.

My  message  to  all  the  unions  and  workers  is  that  I  have  heard  your  cries. Therefore  I am  taking  this  step  to  correct  the  injustices  inflicted  on  you. And  I look  forward  to  your  support in  this  journey   so  that  we  can  right  the  wrongs  together  and  once  again  restore  the  respect  and  dignity  of  the  every  worker  and  the  union  movement.

The  employers  also  cannot  deny that  a  well paid  and  fairly  treated  workforce  is  essential  for  productivity  improvement  and  better service  delivery.

Before I conclude I must thank my family- my wife Priscilla, son Ravi, daughter- in- law Zoya, my  daughter  Jyoti  and  my  little  grandson  Yash  for not  only  bearing  with  me  all  these  years  but  also  for  all  the  support  you  have  rendered. Without  you  I  couldn’t  do  this.

Many  thanks  also  to  the  many  trade unions  and   people  whom  I  consulted  and  some  of  whom  are  here  to  show  support.

And  finally  I  must  thank  the  NFP, a  party  to  which  I   have  already  given many  years  of  my  life  in  various  capacities  including  general  secretary and  leader  for  giving  me  this  opportunity  to  champion  the  cause  of  our workers  and  the  union  movement.

We  have  a  lot  of  work  to  do. Let’s  get  on  with  it.

Thank you.