At a time when many of us were kicking back for our summer breaks, working people from across Wellington turned up outside the Fiji High Commission to show solidarity with locked out-airport workers in Nadi. On the 12th of January Wellington unionists held an action outside the Commission and delivered a letter to the High Commissioner, registering our disappointment with Government-operated Air Terminal Services' choice to lock out over 200 baggage handlers, check-in staff, engineers and caterers at Nadi airport for the last month.
The people working at Nadi airport were locked out in mid-December after raising concerns about financial mismanagement of the company, sexual harassment and an 11-year-long wage freeze. Instead of being listened to, they found their incomes cut off, and their employer chose to backfill their roles with untrained temporary staff.
Since then there have been reports of passengers wandering through restricted areas at the terminal, airlines requesting passengers bring their own food, and failure to report damage to an Air New Zealand aircraft caused by temporary staff. These are not the sort of thing any international traveller want to hear when they set off for a relaxing holiday.
Australian unionists are also asking the Fijian Government to resolve the lock out before it severely affects tourism in Fiji.
But helping working people in Fiji win this fight is both a matter of safety and solidarity. Fiji is a popular holiday destination, but lots of New Zealanders also fly there because it is home for their families. Our relationship to the Pacific is much deeper than holiday snaps. We have strong cultural ties with the Pacific and a responsibility to be good neighbours. That includes reinforcing fair treatment for working people.
Perhaps in New Zealand we can take for granted the right to negotiate pay rates and enforce safe working environments. The Nadi airport lockout is a reminder these rights are always vulnerable.
International pressure and our support will be key to returning the staff at Nadi airport to work safety and helping to support their families. By donating even a small amount to replace the lost income of these staff, together we allow them to push for fair treatment without being intimidated by Air Terminal Services.
You can help support families in Fiji by donating as little as $5 here.
You can also email the Fijian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Filimone Waqabaca, and ask the Fiji Government to instruct Air Terminal Services to return trained staff to work and end the unfair 11-year wage freeze.
Let's show people working at Nadi airport we care about their lives and jobs as much as we do our own.