Sep 30, 2011

Aust Govt to Qantas - Please Explain Anti-Union Decree

ABC NEWS : Qantas linked to Fiji anti-union decree
By Jeff Waters

Qantas is distancing itself from the scandal ... but the Federal Government is calling on Qantas to explain its role in an anti-union crackdown by Fiji's military government.

Documents appear to show a company part-owned by Qantas, Air Pacific, paid for the drafting of Fiji's new Emergency Industries (Employment) decree.

Qantas owns 46 per cent of the Fijian airline, which is accused of paying a US law firm to draft Fiji's new decree which bans unionism in some sectors.

The decree has been widely condemned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and human rights groups.

Two Qantas directors also sit on the board of Air Pacific, which is 51-per-cent owned by the Fijian government. So the question being widely asked is whether Qantas executives knew about, or had a hand in, Air Pacific's involvement in drafting the anti-union law.

Australia's parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island affairs Richard Marles calls the decree a "disgrace" ...

"I'm aware of the reports that Air Pacific engaged lawyers to draft the essential industry's decree; obviously Qantas is a near-half shareholder in Air Pacific.

"Qantas's engagement in Fiji is obviously a matter for Qantas, they're a private company, but I think all Australians and Australian businesses that are engaging in Fiji need to be exercising their own judgment about whether or not their actions benefit the people of Fiji." Mr Marles says Qantas should explain any potential involvement in drafting the decree to the Australian public.

"In this circumstance, I think it is completely appropriate that the Australian public hears from Qantas an explanation for how they've exercised their judgment in this case around the essential industry's decree," he said.

Air Pacific did not return the ABC's calls or emails.

'No excuse'

ACTU president Ged Kearney says she also wants the situation explained.

And she says that when Qantas's own Australian unions hear about the possible link, it may make matters much worse for an airline which is bracing for strike action on Friday.

"There's no excuse whatsoever," Ms Kearney said.

"In fact, it's a significant shareholding. They have a responsibility to be influential with what is happening on the board and ... trade unions would be absolutely horrified to think that Qantas had any role in the drafting of the decrees in Fiji and the implementation and indeed funding it. If workers thought that Qantas had any role in what's happening in Fiji, it would simply invigorate the action they're taking against Qantas."

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