- March 11, 2022
The Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations statement condemning FTUC is humorous to say the least. His statement clearly demonstrates his total ignorance of the processes in place in the laws when it comes to consultations with social partners.
The FTUC issued a statement on Tuesday, 8th of March stating that the Employment Relations Act required the Ministry of Employment to convene an Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) Meeting to consult with the social partners on the minimum wage. Instead, Government decided to consult the public first and we understand that this is election year, so they needed to create a hype in public. The Minister in the statement that was written for him, stated that I did not attend any consultation and that employers attended. I do not believe that the Minister checked to see that workers around the country also attended and have attempted to put sense in his government to ensure a decent minimum wage which would get people out of poverty, fully understanding, that it is an impossible task to get this Minister or his entire Government to understand that a living wage is the answer. We reiterate that the Minister himself and his consultants have already told the people what they considered should be the minimum wage. How does the Minister explain that when decisions are made, only then the consultation process begin? This is putting the cart before the horse.
The FTUC has called for a decent minimum wage consistently over the many years that this Government has been in power. These calls fell on deaf ears. Those ears of Government are only open to the rich businesses who have habitually exploited workers to maximize their profits.
The Minister says the FTUC knows that the Minimum wage issue will be presented to the ERAB. Just a day after the FTUC reminded the Government of the law it ought to have followed, FTUC received an invitation to attend the ERAB meeting dated 9th March and received on 10th March, which is scheduled for the 16th of March, just a week before the Mini Budget where Government hopes to announce the new minimum wage. We have no illusion that the ERAB meeting is simply called for the social partners to rubberstamp the Government’s decision and to fulfil its obligation under the law. We in the FTUC do not take part in any meeting where we will be used to rubberstamp Government decisions and for Government to parade in the international community of its desire to consult social partners. That the Minister needs to learn and learn fast as his term is almost coming to an end and he has yet to grasp the very basics of industrial relations.
We reiterate that FTUC is keen to participate in genuine consultations on any issue regarding workers in Fiji but definitely will not be part of any circus that Government puts on. Minister Bala may also wish to appraise himself on his Government’s Commitment on SDG 1 on eradication of poverty instead of making silly allegations that the FTUC is politicizing the issue of minimum wage.