Fiji Trades Union Congress in Collaboration with International Labour Organisation and all workers around the world mark the “World Day for Decent Work”. Decent work means productive work in which rights are protected, which generates an adequate income, with adequate social protection. It also means sufficient work, in the sense that all should have full access to income-earning opportunities. It marks the high road to economic and social development, a road in which employment, income and social protection can be achieved without compromising workers rights and social standards. Decent work promotes human dignity. In doing so it is based on the ILO Declaration of Fundermental Principles and Rights at Work. The Declaration is a pledge by all member states to respect, promote and realize in good faith the principles and rights relating to:
- Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining
- The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour
- The effective abolition of child labour
- The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation
The recently adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) by 193 UN Member States pledges to build a better and just world for all. Goal number 1: is to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere.” Goal Number 8: is “to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”
Fiji is a member of the UN and ILO and is a party to the Declaration and the SDG’s. The Government has an obligation to deliver on both the eradication of poverty and decent work for all. The World Day for Decent Work must serve as a reminder to all including Government of the commitment we have made to the International Community. A just minimum wage is definitely a good start to eradicating poverty and working towards achieving decent work for all. While employment creation is important, the quality of employment created is even more important. Jobs that don’t provide financial security and dignity at work are not worth the effort. Decent Work is achievable only when we have a strong mechanism for social dialogue by Government, Employers and Workers working together in good faith. Tripartite consultations and collective bargaining promotes a positive labour-management relations enviroment which promotes change, innovation and competitiveness.
The Current Minimum Wage is grossly insufficient and well below the poverty line. This actually condems workers to extreme poverty and does nothing to uplift human dignity. The National Employment Scheme (NEC) undermines the minimum wage to $60 a week, without any other benefits. While this scheme is to create some sort of employment for young people, it actually promotes extreme exploitation of workers and is being abused by some employers. Clearly wage rates for workers are in a “race to the bottom.” This trend needs to be reversed if we are at all serious about Decent Work and eradication of poverty.
The current minimum wage of $2.32 must be reviewed upwards to at least $4 an hour. Workers merely want an increase of $13.44 a day. We note that the Parliament has voted themselves an increase of $200 to $400 a day in allowances alone. We also note that this is the second increase for Palimentarians since 2014 when all salaries were raise substanially, ranging from 60% to 300%. In addition to this, Permanent Secretaries and Chief Executive Officers of all Government owned Enterprises received massive increases in their salaries and other benefits, in some cases these increases have range from a 100% to 600%. Workers in the meantime received a 32 cents increase an hour in mimimum wage from $2 to $2.32 cents an hour. Civil servants and most workers in the private sectors have had no wage adjustment in the past six to eight years. This is grossly unfair to say the least. The poorest in our society get nothing or peanuts while those at the top award themselves huge increases. There is no justification for such conduct on part of Government and this is an opportune time for Government to act in addressing the inequlity in our society. The gap between the rich and the poor has increased and is evident in Fiji today.
FTUC will be marking the day with a campaign urging the public to sign its petition to Government to demand justice and a fair minimum wage. I invite the public to join the FTUC in its campaign for a decent wage and addressing the serious issue of poverty and inequality in Fiji.