It comes after Cook Islands News reported the National Labour Advisory Board Meeting was left without a quorum, after a dispute over a union member’s presence sparked a walkout.
Calling off the meeting has jeopardised work to finalise a new occupational safety and health policy to protect employees from injury. The policy’s progress and sign-off now depends on hopes to reschedule the meeting for next week.
Friday’s board meeting was brought to a halt when Cook Islands Workers Association member John Tini turned up, without a warrant to attend.
Secretary of Internal Affairs Anne Herman asked him to leave, prompting association president Tuaine Maunga to ask the board to decide. But while the board deliberated, Maunga and Tini left.
Herman, the board meeting’s chairwoman, said the walkout was a breach of the code of conduct, leaving the meeting without a quorum and forcing her to declare it closed.
She was damning: “The required premises of representation, competence and professionalism are lacking on part of the workers’ union, translating therefore in a weak entity, struggling with membership and completely invisible in terms of advocacy and awareness raising.”
Most of the social partners’ work on behalf of workers should be done outside the advisory board’s quarterly meetings, she said. The meetings were a chance to discuss progress. “It is disappointing that CIWA is not more active with the workers and therefore their representation on the NLAB could be described as cosmetic.”
“Whilst the attitude of governments is important in determining whether tripartite is effective or simply a cosmetic measure, the capacity of the social partners to contribute to the tripartite dialogue is also a determining factor.”
Herman had pointed out to the association that, according to the Board’s terms of reference, non-warranted members needed pre-approval from the Chair, 24 hours in advance, to attend a meeting in place of a warranted member.
But Maunga said he was unaware of this rule, sparking his accusation that workers had been denied rights and representation on the advisory board.