Fix wages ‘for right reasons’

FIJI Trades Union Congress National Secretary Felix Anthony says Government’s proposal to revise the national minimum wage had to be done for the right reasons.

“We are not interested in an artificial increase just because the general election is around the corner,” Mr Anthony said.

“Any process to increase the minimum wage must be done in an inclusive and transparent manner.

“And Government must take into account the real cost of living in today’s Fiji.

“They must wake up to the fact that $80 a week does not go very far in buying basic food items these days and that’s how much a person on the $2.32 minimum wage takes home.”

Speaking in Parliament last week on Thursday, Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations Minister Jone Usamate outlined Government’s proposal to revise the national minimum wage and wage regulation orders.

The wage regulation review was for the security, manufacturing, printing, building and civil engineering, roads, sawmilling and logging, hotel, mining and quarrying, wholesale and retail and garment sectors.

Mr Anthony said given that the FTUC was the employees representative in tripartite affairs, he was surprised at the announcement.

“So far we have had no discussions despite the fact I have written to the Minister about our $4 an hour minimum wage campaign,” he said.

“He (Mr Usamate) talks about consultation, but there has been none.

“We certainly hope the consultation process and proposed increases will take into account all aspects and not just simply worrying about making big businesses happy.

“We have a tendency in this country where big businesses use small businesses like the corner shop to determine what our minimum wage should be.

“They say they can’t support a $4 minimum wage because the corner shop won’t be able to afford it.

“Our answer is this — there ought to be machinery in place where any employer that pleads inability to pay should be inspected and dispensation be granted on a case by case basis.

“Obviously, the businesses who can afford to pay the $4 an hour minimum wage will attract better workers while the ones that cannot will attract the type of employees they can afford.”

Source:  Fiji Times

By:  Felix Chaudhary