If you are daydreaming about a vacation in a tropical paradise, you may hop online and Google “Fiji.” If your search goes as planned by the International Trade Union Confederation, along with unions in Australia and New Zealand, you will end up on DestinationFiji.com, a website designed to disenchant you with the idea of vacationing on the idyllic isle.
While Westerners may think of Fiji as a beautiful tropical destination filled with pristine beaches and turquoise waters — basically the image projected on the bottle for Fiji Water — the real story of the remote South Pacific island is much different. Now a local union group is attempting to educate tourists about their reality via DestinationFiji.com.
The website reads:
Thought Fiji was paradise? Think again.
Since a military dictatorship led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power of the South Pacific island nation in 2006, human and workers’ rights have been under attack.
Over 60 percent of Fijian wage earners now live below the poverty line, many workers earn less than $3 an hour, and those speaking out against the regime are threatened and assaulted.
The website includes statistics supporting the unions’ position as well as a form letter to send to Bainimarama, encouraging action on behalf of the nation’s workers. The campaign has focused on tourists, because the majority of Fiji’s economy relies on the tourism industry. According to the website, almost 700,000 people visited Fiji in 2011, three-quarters of whom were on vacation.
Unsurprisingly, the government is not pleased by the website. “This is a campaign of a handful of Fijian trade unionists with the assistance of their Australian and New Zealand mates to undermine the Fijian economy, create job loss and punish the livelihoods of ordinary Fijian workers, all in an attempt to bolster their own position,”Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who is both attorney general and Minister for Tourism, told Fijilive.com. “For trade union leaders to encourage tourism boycott [of] an industry that supports the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Fijian families is the height of selfishness and irresponsibility.” The government publicly condemned the website.
The union leaders are not taking the condemnation as sign to step away from the conversation, though. “[Sayed-Khaiyum] has no one else to blame when the world is critical of the abuse of power by the regime in imposing these draconian decrees,” Fiji Trade Union Congress general secretary Felix Anthony told AFP, adding that the campaign didn’t want to discourage tourists, but to educate them about the reality of what was happening outside their luxury resorts.