Unions welcome commitments from Labor to eradicate asbestos and restore worker rights in Fiji

04 December, 2011

Changes to the Labor Party’s national platform will see Australia leading the way in the global campaign to eradicate asbestos, and strengthening its actions to force the Fijian military regime to respect human and labour rights, say unions.

Australian unions have had growing concerns at what appears to be a systematic campaign of persecution by the Fijian Government of workers and their representatives, said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

In recent weeks, the military regime has stepped up oppression of workers in Fiji with a new decree that effectively outlaws collective bargaining and union representation.

The island nation’s union leaders have been subjected to persecution and harassment, including periods of arrest and detention by the police.

Speaking at the Labor Party’s National Conference in Sydney today, Ms Kearney said:

“Now is now is not the time to weaken our position on Fiji. It is not acceptable that people are intimidated, harassed, threatened with violence and assaulted for not sharing the view of the regime or for simply being trade unionists.

“We are calling for respect for human rights in Fiji. We are calling for Australian business operating in Fiji not to profit from taking advantage of anti union, anti worker decrees.”

A resolution adopted by the Labor conference today condemns the Fijian regime and expresses concerns at deterioration of human rights, particularly worker rights.

It calls on the Australian Government to take all appropriate action to promote a return to genuine democracy and governance which respects and promotes human rights.

The conference also amended Labor’s foreign affairs platform to place Australia at the lead of international action for a global treaty to ban the use and trade in asbestos. The amendment commits Australia to hosting an international conference for the Global Alliance against Asbestos Hazard.

“Asbestos is a scourge that kills tens of thousands of workers around the world every year,” Ms Kearney said.

“Unions have been at the forefront of campaigning against asbestos in Australia but a renewed global effort must be made to ban its use and trade in all forms around the world, especially in developing nations. We are pleased to see Labor acknowledging the role that Australia can play in leading global efforts.”

Other amendments to the foreign affairs platform include committing the government to work with Australian unions to build union capacity in developing countries through a development assistance and training