Article – Byron Clark
On December 31 close to three hundred workers at Sheraton Fiji, Sheraton Villas, and Westin Denarau Island Resort took industrial action. Workers held a spontaneous protest against the unilateral removal of their staff benefits.
300 hotel workers strike in Fiji
January 29, 2014
On December 31 close to three hundred workers at Sheraton Fiji, Sheraton Villas, and Westin Denarau Island Resort took industrial action. Workers held a spontaneous protest against the unilateral removal of their staff benefits. The strike was initiated by the land owning committee (LOC) after maternity leave and overtime pay entitlements were taken away.
“In fourteen days we will go back to work… sort things out. All those temporary staff who were supposed to be permanent, they have to be made permanent and those who are owed maternity leave and sick leave etcetera – they have to be paid,” LOC spokesperson Simione Masicola told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.
“It might not seem like much but we were given a few hampers during Christmas celebrations, this was always given out to staff in past years. Some of us depended on these benefits because most of us come from poor backgrounds, so when they reduced this benefit, we were very upset over it.” Sikeli Gavidi, head of the LOC told the Fiji Times.
Following the strike an agreement was reached between the workers and the Sheraton within hours. However the government claimed the strike was illegal due to notice not being given by the union. Six unionists were arrested, including Gavidi and general secretary of the National Union of Hospitality Catering and Tourism Industries Daniel Urai, who was escorted from his office by fifteen police officers.
All six pleaded not guilty when they appeared in court, on the grounds that the strike was initiated by the LOC and not the union. The matter has been adjourned until March 17 for further disclosures to be submitted to the defence, but in the meantime the six have had travel bans imposed as well as being required to report to the police station every Friday. Police are questioning others involved in the strike.
“This is on-going persecution of trade unionists in Fiji,” Felix Anthony, Fiji Trade Union Congress general secretary, told Radio Australia. “This interim regime has an agenda against trade unions in this country and this has been evidence over the past few years, with all the decrees that come in, the essential industries decree – basically the agenda here is to kill the trade unions.
“There was absolutely no need for the police to take into custody the workers and Mr Urai and keep them overnight, there’s absolutely no justification for that…what we see here is basically an abuse of powers.”