Fiji Mediation Services
The Mediation Services was established on 1st September 2008 under the aegis of Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment, as a primary problem solving institution in all types of labour related conflicts. It operates at a national level supported by Employment Relations Tribunal and Employment Relations Court with their associated administration systems and processes under the new Employment Relations Promulgation 2007. This is a historical initiative of the Fiji Government which marked the beginning of a very important journey in the labour market. The design of this new labour law encapsulates our local and international obligations and has set market trend in South Pacific by introducing a statutory framework which promotes a revolutionary shift in conflict resolution culture; from adversarial to dealing in good faith employment relationships. This pioneering legislation continues to promote progressive employment relationships and also improves productivity at the enterprise, sector and national levels in a sustainable manner.
Infrastructure of Mediation Unit
The inaugural appointment of nine Mediators and a Chief Mediator with international accreditation as Associate Mediators by Singapore Mediation Center is serving the nation which has over 8,000 active employers and 136,000 workface in formal sector against total population of just about 1 million.
Mediators are a diverse group of highly experienced industrial relation practitioners, and other top government professionals. Mediation Offices are located in major urban centers which offers cost-free services in resolution of employment related disputes and grievances.
Mediators perform an active role in settling strikes through early intervention upon the slightest threat of strike. They also disseminate information about employment rights and obligations and other services that assist the smooth conduct of employment relationships at workplaces.
Terms of Mediation and incorporating a new culture
The ER Law has set the foundation for incorporating a new culture shift of consultation and rationalisation among workers and employers in Fiji which has not only curbed industrial strikes but enhanced productivity at national level.
Any worker is entitled to raise an employment grievance directly with the Mediation Service in a prescribed Form after failing to reach an amicable resolution having exhausted the internal grievance procedure in terms of its written contract.
While the attendance in mediation session is compulsory and creates an offence for defaulters, the discussion at mediation, and its outcome, is voluntary and confidential. Community mediation is conducted on an informal level.
The process of mediation is based on the principles of self- determination with the Mediator facilitating the whole process and allows each party to make free and informed choices as to the process and outcome of the problem.
In cases where amicable solutions are not possible at mediation, the unsettled grievance is referred for adjudication to the Employment Relations Tribunal and appeals to the Employment Relations Court, if necessary.
Settlement reached at mediation, is incorporated in an Agreement which has final and binding effect and cannot be open for legal challenge in any court of Law.
Having served for first three years the Mediation Services is achieving its desired objective of effective and speedy resolution of employment grievances and disputes. The high settlement rate of 75%- 80% of 1200 cases reported annually, is well above the range of what is normally seen in this field.
Mediation concerning grievances connected with the termination of the employment relationship (unjustified dismissals) are ranked the highest against those involving ongoing employment relationships. The settlement rate, both for grievances and overall, not only indicates the effective manner the mediation are conducted within this framework but is also influenced by the professional mediation services delivered to all.
Legal System of Fiji
Fiji’s legal system is based on common law, modeled from British colonial past. The Labour laws were progressively modified on piece meal basis since independence in 1970 but failed to meet the challenges of the labour market. Therefore, entire overall of Labour Laws were completed in 2007 which introduced good faith as central feature in maintaining and sustaining employment relationships in work places.
Attitudes towards Mediation
Fiji is a homogeneous society based on multiracialism and practices cultural and religious tolerance. Parties are free to present their case in any of the three languages namely English, Hindustani or Fijian in full freedom with the assistance of any other person approved by the Mediator. Lawyers however cannot represent a party in the Mediation.
Traditional forms of mediation have been historically practiced in Fiji at various levels. For instances village elders and head man are approached to broker peace settlement in family feud, land disputes etc.
The practice of mediation is becoming increasingly popular and continues to gain strength which could be attributed to easy accessibility, free service, professionalism of the process facilitated by the independent mediators and speedy conflict resolution.
The website of the Mediation Services is currently under construction but could be accessed with www.labour.gov.fj
Vimlesh C Maharaj
Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations & Employment, Fiji
Ph: (679) 3100097 - Fax: (679) 3100525 - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org