Fiji was battered by Cyclone Winston over the weekend, the most powerful storm on record in the Southern Hemisphere. So far the death toll stands at least 28, and many thousands have been left without shelter or electricity.
Before reaching Fiji, the category five storm passed over Tonga twice, caused flash-flooding and other damage to Fiji’s outer islands, then made landfall on Fiji’s main island, Vitu Levu, at 6pm on Friday 19 February 2016. The Fijian Government declared a curfew over the weekend, and the country will remain in a state of emergency for thirty days.
“The images that we have seen coming out of Fiji are truly shocking: some entire villages have been damaged or washed away. We wish to extend our deepest sympathies to those that have lost loved ones or suffered damage to their property. Our thoughts are with the people of Fiji right now”, said Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of the Building and Wood Workers’ International.
“We are in communication with our Fiji affiliate CETWUF and it is clear that we will have a lot of work to do to ensure that workers rights are protected throughout the clean-up and rebuild that will follow,” said Yuson.
The BWI has taken a keen interest in the situation of workers’ rights in Fiji since the 2006 military coup d’état in which current Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama came to power, and in 2011 the Government blocked an International Labor Organization (ILO) mission to verify complaints over freedom of association issues.
The BWI is continuing to apply pressure in Fiji through the ILO and other international mechanisms to improve the situation for working people in Fiji.