- March 8, 2022
The Fiji Trades Union Congress National Council met on Saturday 5th March 2022 and discussed the Government’s decision to hold public consultations on the Minimum Wage around the country. The Unions are baffled at the Government’s decision to hold these consultations when both the Minister and the hired consultant have publicly stated what the Minimum Wage ought to be. How is it that decisions are already made and then consultations are held. This is nothing more than a public relations exercise and to create some hype in the community amongst workers before the General Elections. The meeting also noted that there is absolutely no talk of a review of the various industry Wages Council Orders. These set Minimum Wage and conditions for different industries. Is this so that Government does not upset some Employers who fund elections?
The FTUC noted that the normal procedure laid out in the Employment Relations Act is for the Employment Relations Advisory Board comprising of Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation, the FTUC and Government to consider this matter and advise the Minister responsible. No such meeting took place or is planned. In fact, this is a breach of the Employment Relations Act. Clearly, the Minister for Economy and everything else wants to take the credit and make an announcement in his Budget address later this month.
The FTUC has campaigned for a decent Minimum Wage for the last 6 to 7 years when at the time it demanded a minimum wage of $4.00 Come 2022, the cost of living has shot through the roof and the Minimum Wage of $4.00 that is demanded is no longer sufficient. The FTUC calls on Government to seriously consider a Minimum Wage of $5.00 which ought to be reviewed annually so that a decent Minimum Wage is attained.
It is heartening to hear the same consultant talking about the need to increase the minimum wage which he had set at $2.32 and expected people to come out of poverty. His past recommendation has resulted in more people falling into the poverty trap. He must, together with Government take responsibility for the plight of the poor in our society. The most recent Bureau of Statistics figures indicate around 30% of the population live below the poverty line. In real terms the numbers are even greater and that is not to count those on the poverty line or slightly above. This is nothing to be proud of for the Government to blow its trumpet. It is high time that the workers contribution to the economy is recognized and that the workers are given their fair share.
For too long the poor in our society have been paid lip service by this Government’s advocation for the eradication of poverty, yet more and more people are being forced into poverty. The old argument by some employers that the Minimum Wage will create unemployment without any real evidence is simply a gimmick to keep wage levels low so that profits can be maximized. It is time that the Government remains true to its commitment to creating decent work and its international commitment to eradicate poverty under SDG 1-End poverty in all its forms everywhere. It’s time for real action. The FTUC dismisses the suggested increase to $3.45 or thereabouts as grossly inadequate to address our poverty crisis.