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Industrial strike must be of last resort: Raj

October 1, 2017 6:10 pm

Strikes and lockouts must be a measure of last resort considering its disruptive and potentially damaging consequences.

Director Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Ashwin Raj says it must be the last option even though our constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly, demonstration and picketing as well as confers to trade unions and employers the right to bargain collectively.

Ashwin Raj adds even the International Labour Organisation’s position disputes over rights set out in law but collective agreements or contracts of employment are often not considered to justify recourse to strike action.

This is because the parties are expected to have recourse to adjudication by the relevant judicial or other body to resolve the dispute, following any conciliation procedure that may be appropriate.

Raj says due consideration must also be given to the fact that health services falls within the ambit of essential services.

The ILO has taken the position that “it is admissible to limit or prohibit the right to strike in essential services, defined as those the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population”.
The right to strike is not absolute and often subjected to certain legal conditions or restrictions as recognised by the ILO.

The Commission, therefore, implores those calling for an unlawful walkout to take full cognisance of the limitations set out in our Constitution and fully exhaust the processes of good faith in bargaining for collective agreement as outlined in the Employment Relations Act.

The development of a code of good faith with an explicit reference of the ERA which provides that where a strike or lockout is threatened in an essential service that there is an opportunity for a mediated solution to the problem.

The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission strongly encourages all parties to act in good faith in bargaining for a collective agreement in the interests of protecting the economic and social wellbeing of not only our nurses.

Additionally the social and economic rights of Fijians particularly the most vulnerable in our society who have no other recourse but to our public health facilities.

This will require putting Fijians before politics and parochialism.