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Govt ‘must include workers in EPA talks’, Fiji

Govt ‘must include workers in EPA talks’

1 July 2008

The Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) has written to the interim Government to include workers in talks regarding the various trade agreements Fiji is treaty to.

FTUC president Daniel Urai revealed this at the FTUC 42nd biennial congress in Nadi at the weekend.

He said the Congress was pleased that the interim Government agreed to reactivate the Tripartite Forum with the (interim) Prime Minister as chairman of the Forum.

Urai said the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with the European Union, Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) with Australia and New Zealand was currently handled by Government without consulting the workers umbrella organisations like the FTUC.

He said in this globalised world, the first victims of trade agreements were the workers.

“...Yet, the (Interim) Government saw it fit to exclude the workers and no doubt, they will be poorer without our input and views,” Urai said.

“A message has been sent to the government to include the Congress in the trade agreement deliberations,” he told more than 250 delegates in attendance at the Congress that ended in Nadi at the weekend.

Urai highlighted a seminar jointly organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and FTUC last week where the ILO made its input on EPAs for the Pacific region and suggested that the paper prepared after the seminar should be read by all Pacific island countries.

“I will risk stating that never was such a critical analysis made before on EPAs for the Pacific,” he said.

“The EPAs must recognise basic labour rights in the interest of social justice,” he added.

Urai said: “Without any such right, trade agreements or economic policy will be seriously flawed as it does not heed the social dimensions of development”.