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Department Seal


Title: Fiji Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


Fiji's system of parliamentary democracy, inherited when the country 
gained independence from Great Britain in 1970, was interrupted in 1987 
with the installation of a military-led regime following two bloodless 
coups.  Fiji returned to elected government in 1992.  That Government 
fell in November 1993 over failure to pass a budget for 1994.  The 
subsequent general election in February 1994 returned Prime Minister 
Sitiveni Rabuka and substantially the same government to office.

Ethnicity plays a major role in Fiji's politics, economy, and society.  
Fiji's more than 775,000 people constitute a multiracial society in 
which indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians together, in roughly equal 
numbers, account for 96 percent of the population.  Indo-Fijians 
dominate the commercial sector and professions and are well represented 
in the lower and middle levels of the Government.  Ethnic Fijians 
control the legal and political organizations and dominate the military 

The small but professional Fiji Military Forces (FMF) and a separate 
police force report to and are under the control of the Minister for 
Home Affairs and, ultimately, the President.  In 1990 the Government 
also established the Fiji Intelligence Service, with limited statutory 
powers to search people and property, monitor telephones, and access 
mail correspondence and financial records.  There continue to be 
credible reports of occasional human rights abuses by individual police 

Sugar and tourism constitute the mainstays of the economy, accounting 
for almost half of the nation's foreign exchange earnings.  The 
Government is promoting light manufacturing for export, notably a 
garment industry, to diversify the economy and lessen its dependence on 
sugar and tourism.

Principal human rights problem remained constitutionally imposed and 
ethnically based political discrimination which, inter alia, abridges 
the right of citizens to change their government, as well as overt bias 
in land tenure and government policies favoring ethnic Fijians.  Other 
human rights problems include occasional police brutality, potential 
constraints on the exercise of freedom of the press, continued delays in 
bringing criminal and civil cases to trial, discrimination and cases of 
violence against women, and instances of abuse of children.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings by the Government or any 
political group.

In September a court sentenced two police officers to life imprisonment 
for first degree murder following a 1994 death in the arrest of a knife-
wielding suspect.  A third officer pled guilty to a lesser charge and 
was the Government's major witness in the court's finding that police 
had used excessive force to subdue the intoxicated victim.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 

Police sometimes physically abuse detainees; the authorities have 
sometimes punished offending officers, but these punishments have not 
served as an effective deterrent to other officers' actions.  The Police 
Department's internal affairs unit investigates complaints of police 
brutality and has begun to work with the Ombudsman's office to ensure 
impartial observers in the investigation of complaints about police 

Prison authorities strive to meet minimum international standards, 
within the limits of local financial restraints.  Prison conditions are 
Spartan and food and sanitation limited.  The Government permits visits 
to the prisons by church groups and family members.  

The law permits corporal punishment as a penalty for criminal acts, but 
this provision is seldom invoked.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Law of Arrest and Detention provides that a person may be arrested 
only if police believe that a breach of the criminal law has been or is 
about to be committed.  Arrested persons must be brought before a court 
without "undue delay."  This is taken to mean within 24 hours, with 48 
hours as the exception (such as when an arrest is made during the 
weekend).  Rules governing detention are designed to ensure fair 
questioning of suspects.  Defendants have the right to a judicial review 
of the grounds for arrest; in urgent cases defendants may apply to a 
judge at any time, whether he is sitting or not.  Incommunicado and 
arbitrary detention, both illegal, did not occur.

Exile is not practiced.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is independent under the Constitution and in practice.  
There were no credible reports in 1995 of courts having been influenced 
by the executive.

The judicial structure was reorganized under the 1990 Constitution, but 
remained patterned on the British system.  The principal courts are the 
magistrate courts, the High Court, and the Court of Appeal.  The 
Constitution also provides for a Supreme Court as the court of final 
appeal.  The Supreme Court held its first meeting in November, 7 years 
after Fiji lost its access to Great Britain's Privy Council following 
the 1987 coups.  The Court of Appeal has made considerable progress in 
reducing the backlog of cases caused by the Government's failure to 
appoint a president for the Court until December 1991 and the Court's 
consequent inability to convene before that time.

There are no special courts; military courts try only members of the 
armed forces.  Magistrate courts continue to try the large majority of 
cases.  In addition to its jurisdiction in serious civil and criminal 
cases, the High Court is granted special interest jurisdiction on behalf 
of the public and is empowered to review alleged violations of 
individual rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Defendants have the right to a public trial and to counsel.  Trials in 
the High Court provide for the presence of assessors (citizens randomly 
selected to represent the community); cases in magistrate court do not.  
In litigation involving lesser complaints, a public legal advisor 
assists indigent persons in domestic or family law cases.  The right of 
appeal exists but is hampered by continuing delays in the appeals 
process.  Bail procedures mean that most defendants do not experience 
any pretrial detention.

The law sometimes treats women differently from men.  In some instances 
there is a presumption of reduced competence and thus reduced 
responsibility.  For example, only women can be charged with infanticide 
(if a man kills an infant it is treated as murder, a more serious 
charge).  A woman in an infanticide case is presumed to have diminished 
mental capacity, and courts reduce or suspend sentences accordingly.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

In general, the Government respects the privacy of the home.  However, 
the Intelligence Service has powers, within specific operational 
guidelines, to search people and property, access private financial 
records, and monitor mail and telephones when a warrant is issued by the 
National Security Council.  The Intelligence Service does conduct 
surveillance of persons it believes represent a security threat.  Some 
political dissidents believe their telephones and mail are monitored, 
but they have not produced substantiating evidence.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech is generally respected.  The Government at times 
criticizes the media for its coverage of sensitive issues, particularly 
if the Government perceives the coverage as resulting in a diminution of 
respect for authority.

Nevertheless, political figures and private citizens can and do speak 
out against the Government.  Although the Public Order Act and other 
laws prohibit actions that are likely to incite racial antagonism, there 
were no reported arrests for such public statements.

The Government has broad discretionary powers to impose restrictions on 
press freedom, and their past use, combined with traditional deference 
to authority, serves to encourage media self-censorship.  In late 1994, 
senior media representatives created the Fiji News Council as a response 
to periodic government complaints of lack of media accountability for 
its errors, a lack of recourse for those who felt they had been wronged, 
and a perceived threat that a media watchdog body might be imposed.  
However, this Council has only limited participation by media 
organizations, and it has met with considerable opposition from 

The only reported case of press restriction was a judicial writ against 
one newspaper to cease publishing the contents of a government 
commission's report on the Vatakoula gold mine.  A court granted the 
mining company an injunction against the newspaper on the grounds that 
the press had surreptitiously obtained the ungazetted report.

Legislation pertaining to the press is contained in the Newspaper 
Registration Act (NRA) and the Press Correction Act (PCA).  Under the 
NRA, all newspapers must be registered with the Government before they 
can begin publishing.  Although the Government has never used the PCA, 
the Act nevertheless gives the Minister of Information sole 
discretionary power to order a newspaper to publish a "correcting 
statement" if, in the Minister's opinion, a false or distorted article 
has been published.  Should the newspaper refuse to publish the 
Minister's correction, the Government can bring suit.  If found guilty, 
the newspaper may be fined approximately $700 (individual persons 
convicted under the Act may be fined approximately $150 or imprisoned 
for 6 months).  The PCA allows the Government to arrest anyone who 
publishes "malicious" material.  This includes anything the Government 
considers false news which could create or foster public alarm or result 
in "detriment to the public."

The media operate without prior censorship but with considerable self-
censorship.  Newspapers occasionally print editorials critical of the 
Government but rarely do investigative reporting.  They widely report 
statements about the political situation made by opposition figures and 
foreign governments.  The letters columns of the two daily newspapers 
frequently contain political statements from a wide cross section of 
society, including members of the deposed precoup government, who are 
highly critical of the Government, its programs, and the Constitution.  
Criticism, albeit muted, of the once sacrosanct traditional chiefly 
system is appearing more frequently.  However, the Government still 
views comments about individual chiefs with disfavor.

An active local organization, the Fiji Islands Media Association (FIMA), 
is an affiliate of the regional Pacific Islands News Association (PINA).  
Both FIMA and PINA are pressing for better training and the 
establishment of codes of ethics for journalists.  In a show of tangible 
support for strengthening the media, the Government has unconditionally 
provided space for housing the Fiji Journalism Training Institute.

The advent of television has raised the specter of censorship, openly 
advocated by the former head of the powerful Methodist Church and 
others.  News production has shifted from the Government's video unit to 
production by the privately owned and operated Fiji One Television.  

While academic freedom is respected, the Government has effectively 
deterred university employees from participation in domestic politics.  
Since 1991 staff members of the Fiji-based University of the South 
Pacific must take leave if they run for public office and must resign 
their university positions if elected.  Senior staff may not hold office 
in political parties.  Student groups are free to organize and do so.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides the right to assemble for political purposes, 
subject to restrictions in the interest of public order.  District 
officers must issue permits for public gatherings.  The Government does 
not always grant permits for large outdoor political meetings or 
demonstrations, particularly if the police advise of difficulties with 
the anticipated crowd size or their ability to assure public safety.

The Government routinely issued permits for rallies organized by 
political parties, religious groups, and groups opposed to government 
policies.  There was no Government interference in, and permits were 
issued for, large rallies against a government decision to lift the 
Sunday observance decree (banning all organized sporting and commercial 
activities on Sundays), as well as for a march condemning France's 
decision to resume nuclear testing in the Pacific region.

All opposition party headquarters operate without government 
interference.  Political organizations operate and issue public 
statements and they did so repeatedly and openly throughout the year.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitutional provision of freedom of religion is honored in 
practice.  The Government does not restrict foreign clergy and 
missionary activity or other typical activities of religious 

  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation

The Government does not restrict freedom of movement within the country 
or abroad.  Airport security occasionally detains travelers at the 
airport, but the courts order redress where this is warranted.  Citizens 
are free to emigrate, and an estimated 40,000 have done so since 1987.  
The Government does not restrict their return if they choose to do so.  
It has in fact encouraged those who left after the political coups to 
return.  There are no refugees and no forced resettlement programs.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government

The Constitutional provisions ensuring political dominance by ethnic 
Fijians, primarily through race-based voting rolls and representation in 
Parliament, abridge the right of citizens to change their government.  
Moreover, the Constitution was promulgated by a nonelected interim 
government and has never been approved by a national referendum.  At 
year's end, the Constitution was under review by a three-member 
independent commission.  The commission has received hundreds of 
submissions and held dozens of hearings.  Many presentations have 
offered thoughtful ideas to ameliorate racial divides and forge a 
stable, peaceful, and prosperous future.  Others, including that of the 
ruling party (the SVT or Fijian Political Party), have taken less 
positive approaches.  The SVT urged the commission to ensure ethnic 
Fijian control over Fiji's political process and government, backed by 
unchallenged ethnic control of the military.

The Constitution provides for ethnic Fijian dominance of the Government 
by providing them with 37 of 70 seats in the elected lower house of 
Parliament.   Indo-Fijians are accorded 27 seats, Rotumans (culturally 
distinct Polynesians) 1, and all others 5.  In the Senate (an appointed 
body with essentially review powers and the right to veto legislation), 
ethnic Fijians hold 24 of the 34 seats, Rotumans 1, and the other groups 
9.  Other constitutional features designed to ensure ethnic Fijian 
dominance include a requirement that the Prime Minister be an ethnic 
Fijian and selection procedures which virtually ensure that the 
President will also be an ethnic Fijian.

The Constitution also incorporates a bill of rights, providing for 
freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and other universally accepted 
rights and freedoms.  These rights may not be altered by Parliament 
except with the approval of two-thirds of the lower house.  However, the 
Constitution gives Parliament the authority to pass special acts to deal 
with certain specified emergency situations, notwithstanding human 
rights guarantees found in other sections of the Constitution.  The 
Attorney General's office has taken the view that any legislation 
introduced under the emergency powers provision would require the 
approval of two-thirds of the lower house.  Critics of the Constitution 
maintain that only a simple majority would be needed and that indigenous 
Fijians in the lower house would be able, solely on the strength of 
their own numbers, to abrogate constitutional human rights protections.  
Neither interpretation has been tested.

The Great Council of Chiefs (GCC), a traditional Fijian leadership body, 
selects the President.  He appoints the Fijian members of the Senate on 
the advice of the GCC and the provincial councils and the nine members 
from other races on his own judgment.  He appoints the one Rotuman 
senator on the advice of the Rotuman Council.  The President chooses the 
Prime Minister (who, along with the Cabinet, holds most of the executive 
authority) from among the ethnic Fijian members of the lower house on 
the basis of ability to command majority support within that body.

Elections are held by secret ballot, with voting only by communal 
constituencies.  The Constitution calls for elections every 5 years, but 
the Government may call an election at any time as it did for the snap 
general election in February 1994 after failing to pass its 1994 budget.  
That election, considered free and fair by all observers, returned 
Rabuka and his party to Parliament in strength, and Rabuka was again 
selected as Prime Minister.

The Constitution provides for a formal review of its provisions within 7 
years of its promulgation and every 10 years thereafter.  This review 
process began in 1992 with the creation of an expanded subcabinet 
committee led by then-Deputy Prime Minister Bole.  The committee 
included representatives of the opposition National Federation Party 
(NFP).  It formulated terms of reference, which were adopted by 
Parliament in September 1993, for an independent review commission, to 
include impartial foreign advisors.  Parliament created its own Joint 
Select Committee and an independent three-member review commission, 
which  began its work in June and is currently hearing submissions on 
proposed changes to the Constitution.  It is scheduled to present its 
recommendations by mid-1996.  Those recommendations will have to be 
reviewed by the GCC and Parliament, which is responsible for proposing 
and passing changes.

Fiji has more than a dozen political parties.  Five are predominantly 
Indo-Fijian.  The major Indo-Fijian ones, the National Federation Party 
(NFP) and the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) pledged to continue their 
opposition to the Constitution in Parliament.  NFP and FLP Indo-Fijian 
Parliamentarians are joined on the opposition side of the legislature by 
another ethnic Fijian party (the Fijian Association) and one "general" 
party (the General Electors Association).  

Women in both the Fijian and Indian communities have functioned 
primarily in traditional roles, although some women achieve responsible 
positions in public service, politics, and business.  Two women sit in 
Parliament; one is a cabinet minister.  Women can also attain high 
status in Fiji's traditional chiefly system.  The President's wife is, 
in her own right, one of Fiji's three highest ranking chiefs.  The 
former Minister for Fijian Affairs, a woman, was widely believed to be 
the best candidate to become Fiji's highest ranking traditional chief.  

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

There are no local groups which focus solely on human rights matters, 
but the women's rights movement, the labor movement, and various 
political groups (including organized political parties) are engaged in 
promoting human rights.  There are also several small, not very active, 
foreign-based organizations which concentrate on human rights causes in 
Fiji, including the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji (with offices in New 
Zealand and Australia) and two United Kingdom-based groups, the 
International Fiji Movement and the Movement for Democracy in Fiji.

The Government in past years inhibited certain investigations of the 
political and human rights situation by external organizations, 
considering them to constitute external interference in its domestic 
affairs.  However, in 1995 it again allowed foreign representatives to 
attend and participate in the University of the South Pacific's 
continuing "Consultation on the National Agenda," organized with the 
assistance of Conciliation Resources, which is located in London.  These 
meetings roundly criticized many government policies and politicians as 
well as the Constitution.  The views expressed were fully and 
prominently reported by the press.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of, and provides 
specific affirmative action provisions for those disadvantaged as a 
result of, race, sex, place of origin, political opinion, color, 
religion, or creed.  Enforcement of these constitutional provisions is 
attenuated by the Government's policy of using "affirmative action" to 
advance ethnic Fijians, and by traditional mores as to the roles and 
rights of women and children.


Women in Fiji are actively addressing the problem of domestic violence.  
Reliable estimates indicate that 10 percent of women have been abused in 
some way.  This abuse is a major focus of the women's movement.  The 
authorities are generally reluctant to intervene in cases of domestic 
violence unless necessary to save the woman's life.  The victims 
generally do not press charges, and the Government has not been active 
in prosecuting domestic violence.

There is a small but active women's rights movement, which has pressed 
for more serious punishment for rape convictions.  Courts have imposed 
sentences which vary widely but are generally lenient.  Women have 
sought to have all rape cases heard in the High Court, where sentencing 
limits are for longer periods.

Suva, the capital, and Ba, the regional center, have privately funded 
women's crisis centers which offer counseling and assistance to women in 
cases of rape, domestic violence, and other problems, such as child 
support payments.  There is an overall growing awareness of the abuse of 
women's rights.

Despite constitutional provisions, the Government practiced a form of 
sexual discrimination in the recognition of spousal and offspring 
rights.  For example, spouses of Fiji female citizens are not 
automatically granted residence, whereas spouses of Fiji male citizens 
are.  Children of female ethnic Fijians married to nonethnic Fijians are 
not entitled to registry in the document governing which persons share 
in income from communal ownership of native lands, and which stipulates 
who may vote as an ethnic Fijian, and who may hold ethnic Fijian-
designated seats in Parliament.  Men, however, confer ethnic Fijian 
status on their offspring regardless of the mother's ethnic background.  
In a high-profile 1992 court challenge to the registration restrictions, 
the son of a Chinese father and ethnic Fijian mother won his appeal to 
be registered as an ethnic Fijian.  The long-term effects of the 
decision on registration restrictions and, thus, a woman's right to pass 
on her ethnic status remain unclear.

In general, women in the Fijian community are more likely to rise to 
prominence in their own right than are women in the Indo-Fijian 
community.  Women have full rights of property ownership and 
inheritance, and a number have become successful entrepreneurs.  Women 
are generally paid less than men, a discrepancy that is especially 
notable in the garment industry.  Garment workers, most of whom are 
female, are subject to a special minimum wage considerably lower than 
that in other sectors.


The Government is committed to children's rights and welfare but has 
limited financial resources to carry out this commitment.  In addition, 
the legal system is at times inadequate to protect the rights of 
children, as children's testimony is inadmissible unless corroborated by 
an adult.  Societal changes have undermined the traditional village and 
extended family based social structures--an outgrowth of this has been a 
child abuse problem.  The Government in 1993 created a Child Welfare 
Committee to address these problems, but it is likely to remain 
reluctant to become involved directly in what are generally perceived to 
be "family matters."

Corporal punishment is widely administered in schools and at home.  The 
Ministry of Education has guidelines for the administration of such 
punishment by principals and head teachers.  In 1993 one principal was 
fired for overstepping these guidelines.  There are credible reports 
that not all abuses are reported or punished.

  People with Disabilities

Legal discrimination against physically disabled persons in employment, 
education, and the provision of other state 

services does not exist.  However, there is no legislation or mandated 
provision for accessibility for the disabled.  Several small voluntary 
organizations promote greater attention to the needs of the disabled.

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The stated purpose of the 1987 military coups was to ensure the 
political supremacy of the indigenous Fijian people and to protect their 
traditional way of life and communal control of land.  To this end, the 
Government initiated a number of constitutional and other measures to 
ensure ethnic Fijian control of the legislative and executive branches 
(see Section 3).  The Government also successfully increased the 
proportion of ethnic Fijians and Rotumans in the public service to 
50 percent or higher at all levels, but most dramatically at the senior 
level:  Indo-Fijians represent only 10 percent of the highest levels of 
the civil service.  As a result, some Indo-Fijians justifiably 
complained of a "glass ceiling" whereby, despite their experience and 
higher educational achievements, they are promoted only to middle 
management levels of the civil service.

Control of land is a highly sensitive issue.  Ethnic Fijians currently 
hold, communally, about 83 percent of the land, the State holds another 
8 percent, and only the remaining 9 percent is in the hands of nonethnic 
Fijians.  The British colonial administration instituted the present 
land ownership arrangements to protect the interests of the indigenous 
Fijians whose traditional beliefs, cultural values, and self-identity 
are tied to the land.  Most cash crop farmers are Indo-Fijians, who 
lease land from the ethnic Fijian landowners through the Native Lands 
Trust Board.  Many Indo-Fijians, particularly farmers, believe that the 
absence of secure land tenure discriminates against them.  Between 1997 
and 2000, most current leases will expire.  A review of the current land 
tenure and leasing arrangements is underway, with all indications that 
the Government will make few changes to the existing system.  Some 
landowners are likely to decline to renew leases; the Government has 
acknowledged its responsibility to help relocate displaced Indo-Fijian 
farmers, although it has few resources to offer.

Indo-Fijians are subject to occasional harassment and crime based on 
race, which is compounded by inadequate police protection.  There have 
been no credible allegations of government involvement in such 
incidents, which the police have investigated, sometimes resulting in 

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

The law protects the right of workers to form and join unions, elect 
their own representatives, publicize their views on labor matters, and 
determine their own policies, and the authorities respect these rights 
in practice.  However, the law permits restrictions to be applied in 
government employment and in the interests of defense, public safety, 
public order, public morality, or public health, or to protect the 
rights and freedoms of other persons.  An estimated 19 percent of the 
labor force is unionized.

All unions must register with, but are not controlled by, the 
Government.  The only central labor body is the Fiji Trade Union 
Congress (FTUC), which was closely associated with the opposition Fiji 
Labor Party until mid-1992.  It currently takes a more independent 
political stance.  The FTUC is free to associate internationally and 
does so.  The labor movement is led largely by Indo-Fijians, with ethnic 
Fijians beginning to assume leadership roles.  Persons with close ties 
to the Government have organized rival unions primarily for ethnic 
Fijians; these unions are more amenable to political cooperation with 
the Government.

Following several years in which confrontational tactics have marred 
labor-government relations, Parliament in April 1994 completed a 2-year 
process of reforming labor legislation by amending several acts.  The 
changes include the elimination of a ban on a person holding multiple 
union officer positions and the elimination of restrictions on seeking 
international support on labor issues.  Subsequently, the FTUC returned 
to participation in the Government's Tripartite Economic Strategies 

Strikes are legal, except in connection with union recognition disputes.  
The Government remains involved in certifying union strike balloting, 
which can be an elaborate process given the distance between some of the 
island locations.  The Ministry of Labor had recorded six legal strikes 
as of September 15.  Other strikes, such as by the sugar cane truck 
drivers and sugar mill workers, were declared illegal for failure to 
conduct  a proper strike vote.  The illegal strike by the unrecognized 
Fiji Mine Workers' Union at the Vatakoula gold mine, which began in 
1991, continued and was at the center of a government commission of 
inquiry.  The commission's report had been sent to the Cabinet but not 
to the Parliament by year's end. 

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law recognizes the right to organize and bargain collectively.  
Employers are required to recognize a union if more than half the 
employees in a workplace have joined it.  Recognition is determined by 
union membership rather than by an election.  The Government has the 
power to order recalcitrant employers to recognize unions and has done 
so.  Key sectors of the economy, including sugar and tourism, are 
heavily organized.  Following the May 1992 return to accountable 
government, the Government lifted wage guidelines, and unrestricted 
collective bargaining on wages is now the norm.

Wage negotiations are conducted on an individual company or enterprise 
basis rather than on an industrywide basis.  A government proposal to 
introduce such negotiations has been opposed by employers and unions.

The law specifically prohibits antiunion discrimination.  In practice, 
the unions are generally successful in preventing discrimination against 
workers for union activities, but the law does not mandate that 
employers reinstate fired workers.

Export processing zones (EPZ's) are subject to the same law as the rest 
of the country, and unions have negotiated collective bargaining 
agreements with many EPZ firms.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution specifically prohibits forced labor, and there is no 
indication that it is practiced.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Children under the age of 12 may not be employed in any capacity.  
"Children" (under age 15) and "Young Persons" (ages 15 to 17) may not be 
employed in industry or work with machinery.  Enforcement by the 
Ministry of Labor and Industrial Relations is generally effective, 
except for family members working on family farms or businesses and 
"self-employed" young homeless youths.  Education is not mandatory.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no national minimum wage.  Certain sectors have minimum wages 
set by the Ministry for Labor and Industrial Relations, which 
effectively enforces them.  Minimum wage levels will generally support a 
barely adequate standard of living for a worker and family in all 
sectors except for the garment industry, in which the starting hourly 
wage, $0.50 (F$0.72) for learners and $0.65 (F$0.94) for others, is 
based on the assumption that workers are young adults or married women 
living at home and not supporting a household.

Fiji has no regulations specifying maximum hours of work for adult 
males.  Women are prohibited from night work in factories (other than 
overtime work in the garment industry) and underground work in mines.  
Certain industries, notably transportation and shipping, have violated 
provisions relating to excessive hours of work.   Indo-Fijians, who 
generally require a cash income to survive, are more vulnerable to 
pressure to work long hours than are ethnic Fijians.  Many ethnic 
Fijians can and do return to a noncash economy way of life in their 
villages rather than work what they consider excessive hours.

Fiji has workplace safety regulations, a Workmens' Compensation Act, and 
an accident compensation plan.  Awards to workers injured on the job are 
set by a tribunal.  Government enforcement of safety standards under the 
direction of the Labor Ministry suffers from a lack of trained 
enforcement personnel, but unions do a reasonable job of monitoring 
safety standards in organized workplaces.  The International Labor 
Organization's 1992 recommendations cited the need to improve working 
conditions, particularly in the garment industry.  The Government has 
prepared legislation to address some of these shortcomings, but 
parliamentary action has not been completed.


[end of document]


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