Employees have been urged to dob in their employers if they have been refused time off, preferably half a day, to vote when Fijians go to the polls today.
Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem’s said employers could be taken to court following reports that some workers have been directed by their employers “to report to work at 9am or face the axe.”
“It is not proper for any employer to force their employees to come to work without having voted,” Mr. Saneem said in a presser last night.
“If any employee has been directed by their employer to come to work at 9am, and not go and vote, please take this time tonight to report it to the Fijian Elections Office. We will tomorrow report this matter to the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission. And if necessary, the FEO itself will petition the High Court against that employer because we want all employees to be able to go and vote in the morning.”
While he is unable to wield his powers provided under section 141 of the Electoral Act in this instance, Mr. Saneem pointed out that Section 23(2)(3) of Fiji’s 2013 Constitution “does not make any allowance for any person to make a law that will prohibit a person from voting.”
“This means that neither Parliament nor an employer has the authority to stop a person from voting. They must allow their employees to vote. The Fijian Elections Office has been advocating for employers to allow employees to vote and then report to work. We note that we have been previously asking that employers allow employees at least half the day that is the morning session for them to go and vote.
“It is the constitutional right of every voter to go and vote. It is the general election ladies and gentlemen, it comes every four years, and every employer in this country is being asked to be conscious of this matter and allow your employees to go and exercise their right to vote. And it is not the time for employers to force voters from not voting.”
Mr Saneem also referred to Section 6 (2) of the Employment Relations Act 2007, which states that no person shall discriminate against any worker or prospective worker on the grounds of political opinion.
“And tomorrow is the date that the worker is going to express their political opinion of the highest order by voting.”
Mr Saneem is also encouraging workers to report such incidents before polling ends today to allow FEO sufficient time to take action.
About 606,092 Fijians are expected to have their say in more than 800 venues across the country today, including a booth, opened up at the Fijian Elections Office at St Stephen’s Building for overseas voters in the country who did not apply for postal voting.
The Fijian Elections Office (FEO) and the international Multinational Observer Group (MOG) are strongly encouraging voters to participate today, particularly on the heels of a prepoll voter turnout of 69.63%, a slight increase but deemed low still when compared to a 65.93% turnout recorded in the previous election in 2018.
“If you are an employer or an employee, and you want to go and vote and you want to know about the free public transportation, SMS your VoterCard number to 1500, and it will message you back with your Polling Venue details, as well as the details of the person who is organizing free public transport in your area.”
Polling venues open at 7.30am today and close at 6 pm or when the last voter in the line at 6 pm has voted.