Workers on the paradise island of Fiji are accusing hotel chains of taking advantage of its military dictatorship to cut wages and conditions.
The Fiji National Union of Hospitality Catering and Tourism Industries Employees (NUHCTIE) claims it is facing “obstacles to collective bargaining in the hotel industry, resulting in below poverty line wages for part-time workers increasingly employed on casual or temporary contracts”.
In August 2011, Daniel Urai, general secretary of NUHCTIE, was arrested and charged with unlawful assembly for holding a union meeting with hotel workers to prepare them for collective bargaining. Later that year he was arrested on returning from a meeting in Australia and charged with “inciting police violence by urging to overthrow the government”. An international campaign secured his release from prison but he is barred from foreign travel and has yet to go to court in either case.
History of coups
The union’s claims have been contested by Accor, which operates over 4,200 hotels worldwide and has four in Fiji.
Graeme Ham, director of human resources for the company in Fiji, said: “We are not aware of any issues restricting the freedom of employees in the tourism and hospitality industry. We support any Accor employee to exercise their right for union representation and all four hotels have registered collective agreements in place.”
NUHCTIE’s concerns have attracted support in India, with demonstrations outside the Fiji embassy in Delhi as part of a campaign aimed at restoring workers’ rights.
Fiji became independent from the UK in October 1970 but has a history of military coups. The last one seven years ago saw Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama take over and dissolve parliament.
In 2009, Bainimarama issued a decree outlawing collective agreements in the public sector and the police broke up several trade union meetings.
No legal redress
Urai said: “All union general secretaries are no longer able to bargain on behalf of public sector workers, who have not had a pay rise since the coup and have no legal redress.”
A new constitution was announced this month but Amnesty International says it does not respect “basic human rights, a free press, the rule of law and freedom of expression.”