Pacific and NZ unions left out of Pacific Labour meeting

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The meeting is being called because some countries are reluctant to have binding labour commitments included in the proposed PACER PLUS trade deal.

Radio New Zealand | 22 Aug 2016

Pacific and NZ unions left out of Pacific Labour meeting

Regional trade unions have raised concerns about the lack of representation of workers at the inaugural Pacific labour meeting which takes place this week in Christchurch.

The meeting on Pacific labour mobility was supposed to take place ahead of ministerial meetings of the PACER Plus trade negotiations taking place later in the week.

Both the New Zealand and Australian Council of Trade Unions as well as the South Pacific Council of Trade Unions voiced their concerns at not being allowed to participate in the labour mobility meeting.

NZCTU secretary Sam Huggard said it was not possible to achieve a good outcome for Pacific workers without the voices of those workers at the table.

Mr Huggard said New Zealand unions had supported the seasonal workers scheme when it came in in the mid 2000s on certain conditions.

He said this included that Pacific workers would be well treated and not under paid and that there would be an industry wide approach to improving conditions in the sector.

"We have felt a little bit let down to be fair by some of those industries and the employers in those industries. And so we want a focus to make sure that workers are really aware of their rights and information. Both pre-departure from their home country but also the ability to get organised and be supported in New Zealand to make sure they are getting paid properly for what they do and that it is a genuinely developmental opportunity."

As to the content of the meeting, Sam Huggard said the limited information available suggested it was being called because some countries were reluctant to have binding labour commitments included in the proposed PACER PLUS trade deal.

Sam Huggard said ironically the NZCTU would support this position as it felt people were not commodities and should not be part of any trade arrangements.

He said the NZCTU was pushing for strong bilateral arrangements with a focus on better conditions for Pacific workers including opportunities for development and training.


New Zealand Council of Trade Unions media release | 22 August 2016

Pacific labour mobility meeting missing key ingredient – the voices of working people

A meeting on Pacific labour mobility in New Zealand this week has a glaring omission – the voices of organised labour, the NZ Council of Trade Unions said today.

The inaugural Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting gets underway in Christchurch today. It is taking place ahead of a Ministerial meeting of the Pacer Plus trade and investment talks.

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions wrote to the New Zealand Minister of Trade seeking representation for SPOCTU (South Pacific Oceanic Council of Trade Unions), NZCTU and ACTU but was declined.

“It is not possible to achieve a good outcome for pacific workers without the voices of these workers at the table,” CTU secretary Sam Huggard said. “Inviting unions and civil society to a cocktail function only is not on.”

“People are not commodities and the NZCTU does not support immigration being linked to trade and investment agreements.

The NZCTU has endorsed “Defending Pacific Ways of Life: A Social Impact Assessment of PACER-Plus”, a social impact assessment of Pacer Plus carried out for the Pacific Network on Globalisation.

“We stand with other pacific unions and with civil society in calling for a thorough assessment of the impact of Pacer Plus on pacific countries.


Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA) media release | 22 Aug 2016

Pacific unions concerned at lack of worker representation at Pacific Labour meeting

The South Pacific Council of Trade Unions (SPOCTU) welcomes the convening of the inaugural Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting (PLMAM), on 23rd – 24th August 2016 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Labour mobility has the potential to bring substantial benefits to Pacific Island workers and nations. This includes the significant financial benefits that flow from remittances, as well as social benefits of access to training and employment opportunities not available at home.

These benefits will not accrue if the needs and experiences of Pacific Island workers are not taken into account, and their rights to decent work are not enforced.

As the voice for workers from across the Pacific across the region, SPOCTU is concerned that the inaugural Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting will not include union representation.

The parties to the PACER Plus agreement are – with the exception of Palau – all member countries of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and the majority are party to the 8 core conventions as international labour standards as the benchmark for the creation of decent jobs. Furthermore, Pacific Island Forum Leaders have committed all the Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) to SDG8 to promote decent work & economic growth. The tripartite structure of the ILO recognises that in order to shape labour policies and programmes that promote decent work it is necessary to give voice to workers, employers and governments.

Exploitation is already prevalent in existing labour mobility schemes:
- In December 2015, the Weekly Times reported on a group of workers who earned only $1.21/hr despite being entitled to $21.61/hour an hour under the horticulture award.
- Labour-hire firm Maroochy Sunshine Pty Ltd is being prosecuted by the Fair Work Ombudsman for underpaying workers a total of $77,000. Including failing to pay 13 Ni-Vanuatu workers brought to Queensland in 2014, and paying another nine workers between $50 and $300 for up to seven weeks’ labour on Queensland fruit and vegetable farms.

Loreen Baniuri, President of SPOCTU says:

Seasonal work offers great opportunities for Pacific Island workers, but there are already too many stories of exploitation in the scheme. Governments and business must work together with unions to ensure that the rights of workers are enforced in current and future labour mobility programs in the region.

SPOCTU has endorsed “Defending Pacific Ways of Life: A Social Impact Assessment of PACER-Plus”, a social impact assessment of Pacer Plus carried out for the Pacific Network on Globalisation.

SPOCTU is the representative body of unionized employees in the South Pacific and Oceania region. It includes the national trade union organizations of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna Islands. Combined, it represents the voice of more than 2.5 million working people in the Pacific region.

Media contact: Katie Hepworth, +675 7329 0584