Felix Anthony, President of the ITUC-AP and National Secretary of the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC), affiliated organisation of the ITUC-AP, was arrested on 1 May 2019 at 4.20pm from the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Conference Room, in Suva, Fiji. Felix Anthony was part of a tripartite meeting when Police officers walked into the conference room and arrested him, witnessed by government representatives, employers and ILO officials.
In addition to this, 29 members of the National Union of Workers (NUW) who are employees of the Water Authority of Fiji, together with 1 union staff, were also being detained without charges when they were preparing to picket on union owned land in Lautoka over labour issues at the Water Authority of Fiji. These union members were arrested without having breached any law and they were only exercising their right to peacefully assemble and protest.
The arrest of Felix Anthony came ahead of planned nationwide protest on 3 May and a march on 4 May 2019, following protests by hundreds of laid off workers at the Water Authority of Fiji. He is also due to represent the workers of the NUW in a tribunal hearing of the Water Authority case on 2 May 2019. Reportedly, Felix Anthony is being accused of breaching the Public Order Act and since his arrest, the lawyers of the FTUC had not been given any opportunity to meet or speak to him.
Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-AP, strongly condemns the unlawful arrest by the Fijian authorities, he said “Workers have the right to express their views and defend their interest, including through peaceful demonstration, in an atmosphere free of fear, coercion, repression and violence. Having ratified the ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise in 2002, Fiji, as an ILO member State, had explicitly accepted an international legal obligation to respect the principles enshrined in the Convention”.
Freedom of Association is one of the primary safeguards of peace and social justice. Workers have the right to express their views and defend their interest, including through peaceful demonstration, in an atmosphere free of fear, coercion, repression and violence. The arrest and detention, even if only briefly, of trade union leaders or members for trade union activities is contrary to the principle of freedom of association.