The President of the Vanuatu Trade Unions, Loreen Bani, has labelled the Government Remuneration Tribunal (GRT) salary increase for public servants as a ‘mockery’.

She made the comment while welcoming the visiting International Labor Organization (ILO) Regional Director, Donglin Li, at the Vanuatu National Workers Union headquarters in Port Vila.

“Comrade Li, you may not be aware of the latest GRT in Vanuatu, the increase in the salaries of public servants, which was presented by the GRT is a mockery. I say again, it’s a mockery to the tripartite system, she said.

“Why I say this is because the government has not consulted the workers, especially the public servants, including teachers, whom i am a member of the Teachers Union, we were not consulted before putting the whole decision through Parliament.”

The President of the Vanuatu Council of Trade Unions says they are glad that a representative of the ILO is here and is from China as they had worked with an Australian, a Japanese and now they had the Chinese on the job, reports Kizzy Kalsakau on 96 Buzz FM’s Vanuatu Nightly News.

“China and Vanuatu, we have same values and respect is one of them. We hope that this respect with help us to work together with other Pacific island countries.

“Although we talk about respect and globalization, in Vanuatu we see workers’ rights, trade union rights eroding since 1980 under the watchful eye of the Vanuatu government.

“Since 1980, the unions have struggled, but today as you sit in your chair, we want to let you know that we have one Member of Parliament, and that is Mr. Ephraim Kalsakau whom you met last year. The Vanuatu Council of Trade Unions want your support to regain and retain workers’ rights in Vanuatu,” she added.

Lastly, the President of the Vanuatu Council of Trade Unions (VTCU), who’s also President of the South Pacific and Oceania Council of Trade Union (SPOCTU),said that since her election in 2016, she has never convened a meeting of the council.

“I am asking your assistance to help SPOCTU come together. We have issues concerning RSE scheme and the SWP scheme. We need your help so that all the countries can come together to talk about this issue and to talk to the New Zealand and Australian governments for what they can do for our workers who go to work in their countries.”

MP Kalsakau, the National Secretary/Treasurer of the Vanuatu National Workers Union (VNWU) informed Mr. Li that the VNWU has had links with their comrades in China. And a few years ago, they went on a visit to China but since then things have been sort of on silent mode.

“Now that you’re here, we will rekindle the fire and talk to our friends over there to ensure workers’ rights are respected all over the world,” he said.

“Vanuatu is still of the view that the Pacific sub-region needs to work together more, especially now that the problems our workers are facing in the schemes in Australia and New Zealand are increasing.

“The Vanuatu National Workers Union has an agreement with the National Workers of Australia and they have been collaborating on how to deal with the ni-Vanuatu workers in Australia and the union is assisting them in quite a few things. One of them is speaking with New Zealand workers union to see how we could all work together.

“We do not really want to be involved in the demarcation issues that unions in Australia and New Zealand have. They are big unions. So, that’s why I spoke to the President and said if you get Mr. Lee on our side for us to work together to cooperate with the unions of Australia and New Zealand so that our workers get their rights when they are in Australia.

“Additionally, part of our plan for working together is to ensure that our members, when they return, know the meaning of workers’ rights.

“I think that’s happening, workers are coming back with a better scope of knowledge and so on. And I think it needs to happen for the sub-region.

“This is why Vanuatu is trying to get your help to get the Pacific sub-region together. It will be a great year next year that the ILO celebrates 100 years. It is a great time to celebrate and it is our hope that there will be funding for a delegation from Vanuatu to be present at that occasion to mark our workers’ rights,” Mr. Kalsakau concluded.

Mr. Li said ILO is going to celebrate its 100-year anniversary next year in Genena and he has invited the Vanuatu Minister for labor matters to attend.

“It’s going to a very high event. We estimate participants from all ILO’s 170-members states will attend. This is a very high-level ceremony and I also requested the Minister to lead the Vanuatu delegation to attend the International Labor Conference,” he said, adding that the topic will be the future work of ILO.

“In May next year, we plan to hold the Pacific regional ILO conference, the theme of which will be climate change and process. We will discuss climate change and how to respond to the climate change and also the mitigation and adaptation process from this climate change.

“You know many Pacific Island countries have received global funding for climate change but unfortunately, some of this funding is only for some international companies to build a seawall and then they leave without providing the job opportunity for local communities — without upskilling for the local labor force.

“They have not provided social protection, which are ILO visions. So, next year want to have a high-level forum to address these kinds of issues to utilize the climate change process to create job opportunities for the labor force and to consider workers’ rights and workers’ interests.”

Mr. Li was accompanied on the visit by ILO Pacific Coordinator, Edward Bernard.