Posted by: nativeiowan | February 9, 2010

Bad natured Mike…

** Tuesday, February 9, 2010/ Brisbane, Australia

Report of activities: SICCI/ ILO Meeting, Port Vila, Vanuatu

Prepared for the SICCI Executive Committee, Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Copy to: Commissioner of Labour, SIG, Honiara; President and Secretary General SICTU

INTRO:

SICCI CEO, Calvin Ziru, and SICCI Chair, Mike Hemmer traveled to Vanuatu to attend an ILO meeting supposedly aiming to:

The workshop on 5 and 6 February will be used for two purposes: (a) to explore whether and in what way representative business associations in Pacific island countries might be helped by the international community to improve their performance, and (b) to prepare effective employer participation at the ILO Tripartite High-Level Meeting on Decent Work for Sustainable Development and the UN Pacific Conference on the Human Face of the Global Economic Crisis, both of which will be held the following week.

Calvin traveled ahead and attended the first meeting. I arrived in Port Vila on the 6th and prepared to participate in the High Level meeting.

Calvin briefed me on the work done in the 2-day workshop. The main point here is that Calvin had been chosen by the collective reps from the Employers to be one of two people tasked with drafting the outcomes and agreements which we were anticipating.

On Sunday the 7th Both Calvin and I met with the two SINCTU reps, President Alfred and Sec-General Tony; and the Commissioner of Labour, Josia. This was a lengthy meeting in which we prepared our joint presentation and discussed many of the pertinent, overbearing issues from a Solomon Island point of view. This meeting lasted over 3 hours and at the end of it we tasked Calvin to prepare and present the Solomon’s Position Paper on Monday the 8th.

It was with high spirits and childish abandon that we joined the ILO’s formal welcoming reception on Sunday eve. The SI “Team” was ready and felt good. One of the main aims of all this ILO work was to develop and strengthen the tripartite work of Employees, Employers and government. We, the Solomons Team, figured we were miles ahead of the rest. The Union reps, The Commissioner of Labour and the SICCI have a strong and healthy relationship.

So the SI Team is all standing together having a friendly drink on a lovely eve. Calvin was called away and, after several minutes, came back quite upset, in his words “offended’.

An ILO operative had told him that, in the sake of gender equity, he was being dropped from the Drafting Committee and a woman from Samoa was being added in his place.

Considering that 1) the decision to place Calvin on this committee was made in a workshop by a large group of people representing the Employers of the region and 2) the decision and instructions per the change were made without consultation and in a very inappropriate manner and place we all, the SI Team, said, “hey, wait a minute, what’s going on”…

The Commissioner Josia very quickly said he would go talk to Trevor Riodan, the ILO boss in Suva. Trevor came up and as we tabled our issues he simply brushed them all aside with some BS about ILO policy. He spoke some French, which, in my mind, was aimed at either confusing or impressing us. But definitely not aimed toward solving the problem.

I got the impression from Trevor that as all the contestants had been “paid” to attend the meeting and that the ILO simply did not care what we thought. The message I heard from Trevor was to simply shut up and behave.

I very quickly became annoyed. I explained to Trevor that I had paid to attend this important meeting and was not happy that our legitimate concerns being brushed aside.

Being annoyed and having a propensity for colorful language I did unprofessionally use the “f” word twice. I asked Trevor “what the “f” am I doing here?”. He asked me who was the SICCI’s delegate to the meeting. I said “Calvin”. I was then told that as I was an observer I had no right to say anything. I then said that “I might as well “f-ing” leave”. Trevor replied, “Yes, you should leave”.

And I did. And I took Calvin with me.

I apologize to our colleagues I left behind. Guys, sincerely, I wish I could have put you all on a plane and got you away from all the BS.

There is so much that I am annoyed at. Allow me to restrict this to two, only, big and powerful gripes…

1)     Per Diems of approximately 30.00 USD were/ are woefully inadequate and force delegates to skip meals, evade doing laundry or simply suffer while sitting in the lap of plenty. The meeting was booked at a terribly expensive resort, the le legon.  Everything is overpriced. A meal, without a drink, costs 15.00 USD. A drink is 5 USD. A bottle of water is 7.50 USD… The laundering of a shirt, a pair of trousers and underpants cost me 12.65 USD. The resort is isolated thus no easy options for food are readily available. No facilities for self-laundry exist… seriously, I am offended and appalled by the arrogant attitude I see here. I would love to I ask what the ILO reps, consultants and cronies get, per diem. I did not see them skipping meals.

2)     The travel the ILO has expected our people to do is ridiculous… Our meeting ended on Tuesday. Alfred and Calvin were booked to fly, on Wednesday, to Sydney, then to Nadi where he would sit (again on minimal per diem and no thought of an appropriate hotel booking) until Saturday. I simply cannot express how totally “F-ed” up this is. We, the SICCI are expected to allow our very busy and valuable CEO to sit and twiddle his thumbs in Nadi for days when a flight to Brisbane could have Calvin back home on Wednesday or the latest Friday. I asked about this and was told all the planes were fully booked. I think this is either patent BS or unacceptable incompetence in that, after being told I was not welcome at the venue, I went straight to my room and booked both Calvin and myself out on the next day’s flight and also booked Calvin through to Honiara on Wednesday. No flights available, eh?

3)     OK, I lied, three big and powerful gripes… The work being done by the ILO here, to me, appears to disregard the thoughts of the constituents. The meetings at Vila revolve around a number of projects worth a combined total of 20 million USD. These projects include disabled, women and youth employment, data collection, migrant work, etc, etc. I think there are 7 programmes for 8 pacific countries. The Solomons is a participant in all but one of these programmes. I have honestly taken the time to read and comment on every document the ILO prepared for this meeting. The SICCI, the SI Team, was well prepared to contribute and benefit professionally from this venue. There was to be a final resolution that all constituents would sign off on at the end of these meetings. Of course the aim, from our part, is to ensure we are well represented in this final statement. Well, as the SI Team were meeting Monday morning the SINCTU President tabled a copy of the ILO’s prepared resolutions we were apparently expected to sign off on. The ILO had intentionally withheld this important document. I had heard that we, the constituents, were not ready to have a look at it… These resolutions carried no resemblance to anything we have previously discussed or agreed to. I feel certain that we were expected to “rubber stamp” this document.

So, by way of apology, I am know for my fiery temper. What I witnessed in Vila was an arrogant if not colonial attitude that was basically… “You kanakas don’t know what’s good for you… sign the paper, feel good we brought you here, then go away and let us do what we want with the 20 mil that you just agreed for us to spend”. Sore Hola!

Sore Hola, Boko!

I am still smoldering here, folks.

What have we learned?

I recommend to the SICCI Executive that all further acceptance of international travel be strictly reviewed before we accept. We are not puppies that belong to the international agencies. We will not come running, tails wagging, when they whistle, ever again.

We have our own programmes to run and may not need the supposed “help” that organizations like the ILO supposedly “offer”.

Also, I have informed the ILO that, as Chair of the SICCI, I will not allow any further interaction between our office and the ILO. Not, that is, until a formal and very high-level apology from the ILO to the SICCI CEO, Calvin Ziru, is received. If and when we receive this apology we will review, but not guarantee, to change our position per the ILO.

I do thank our colleagues who attended the Vila meeting. Your support and professional companionship is a pleasure.

I also thank Calvin for his broad shoulders and calm manner. I am glad he had a hand on my leash as I was growling and snarling Sunday night.

Mike Hemmer

Chairman

SICCI

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