Union organisers from the Pacific have spoken about the challenges some face while trying to improve conditions for workers in their countries.
The organisers from Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Australia, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands were attending the International Trade Union Confederation-Asia Pacific workshop in Nadi in November.
In countries like Fiji organising workers can be dangerous. We had the pleasure of having Fiji Trades Union Congress national secretary Felix Anthony and union advocate Kuini Luata join the workshop.
Felix was arrested on May Day in 2019 for his union activity. The environment our comrades work and live in, in Fiji contrasts with how we can organise in New Zealand.
While the government in Fiji is supposed to work with employers and unions in a tri-partite arrangement, delegates from Fiji believe unions are excluded from discussions which have an impact on workers.
The most recent example of this was family care leave and parental leave. This was clearly a worker’s issue but the unions were kept out of the discussions and announcements were made for it to be implemented from January last year. The unions believe this was a big sweetener for the working class to vote in favour of the current government.
But the workshop also celebrated some achievements. The raising of the minimum wage in Samoa is a big success for the likes of Samoa First. They should be congratulated for that work and the support they received from First Union.
I attended the conference as the NZ CTU Komiti Pasefika representative. My presentation focussed on the PSA’s work to close the gender pay gap in the public service. As part of this we want Pasefika public service workers to be free from gender biased inequalities so they can achieve their full potential, regardless of gender AND ethnicity.
The wins include pay principles developed by PSA Pasefika from a Pacific lens, building structures with Pacific National Delegates in the Department of Internal Affairs, MBIE and Oranga Tamariki, engagement in workplace action plans and inclusive and diversity plans, and closing the gender pay gap in 2020. I also spoke about our Government’s goal of closing the gender and ethnic pay gaps.
Other participants presented examples of the work they do to enhance the lives of Pacific workers. This includes negotiating to improve pay, conditions and leave provisions, and building union density in the private and public sectors.
PSA members and local communities joined forces in February to protest restructuring that threatened hundreds of jobs and quality client care.
While the restructuring by HealthCare NZ is now set to go ahead the protests have thrown a spotlight on issues besetting the home care and support sector.