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Minimum Wage Issue Not a Political Ploy, Says Acting PM

Minimum Wage Issue Not a Political Ploy, Says Acting PM
Acting Prime Minister, Attorney General and Minister foraActing Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Photo: Ronald Kumar Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum while giving update on missing air-line in Vanua Levu on February 27, 2018. Photo: Ronald Kumar.
March 16
11:00 2018

People will end up losing jobs if there is an unreasonable increase in the minimum wage rate, says Acting Prime Min­ister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

While delivering a ministerial statement on the minimum wage rate, the Attoerney-Gneral drove home some pertinent facts.

He pointed out that SODELPA was advocating for a $4 minimum wage rate while the National Federation Party was saying it would intro­duce a $5 minimum wage rate.

He put in context what this means for the Fijian people and also how this would have an adverse impact on the 130,000 self-employed people in Fiji.

He called out that a business­woman like SODELPA MP, Mere Samisoni, the founder of Hot Bread Kitchen, would end up passing on the increase in the wage rate to her customers. This was not disputed by Ms Samisoni.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum pointed out that it was the Bainimarama Gov­ernment which introduced mini­mum wage rate.

No Government prior to the Baini­marama Government, including the SVT Government whose then Prime Minister is now the same person advocating a $4 minimum wage rate, introduced the rate pre­viously.

“Firstly, Madam Speaker, it was the Bainimarama Government that introduced Fiji’s first ever national minimum wage in 2014. And since then, Madam Speaker, it has been reviewed and increased twice and currently stands at $2.68 per hour with another review planned for this year.

“Madam Speaker, it is important to note that this rate is only for un­skilled workers and those who are not part of the 10 sectorial-based wage categories. Madam Speaker, those workers that fall under the 10 sectorial based categories, of course have a minimum rate of $2.68 an hour or higher.”

For example:

n A foreman in the building sec­tor has a minimum rate of $5.22 an hour,

n A class 1 tradesman has a mini­mum rate of $4.30 an hour;

n An underground miner in the mining industry has a minimum rate of $4.69 an hour;

n A logging truck driver in the sawmilling and logging industry has a minimum rate of $4.25 an hour;

n there are many other categories under the Employment Relations (National Minimum Wage) Regu­lations 2015, which were amended in 2017 by the Employment Rela­tions (National Minimum Wage) (Amendment) Regulations 2017.

“This increase in wages, Madam Speaker, is based on productivity improvements and is market driven which means it is affordable for the employers and also adequate to at­tract and retain these workers. And this is more sustainable and eco­nomically and financially sound.

He said that many households today who employ domestic help will not be able to afford to pay $5 an hour when they are themselves earning $6 an hour.

“These numbers, Madam Speaker, appear to have been plucked out of thin air to gain political mileage and lure ordinary Fijians. Such promises that will actually harm ordinary Fijians and disrupt busi­ness and the economy and put peo­ple out of jobs and diminish job creation,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“If the national minimum wage rate were increased arbitrarily to $5 an hour, I can again guarantee you Madam Speaker that many of these employees will no longer be employed – their service simply be­comes unaffordable.

“Let me give another example, Madam Speaker. A stall in Dol­phins Food Court employs 3 staff paying them $3.50 an hour, above the minimum wage rate. If the rate is increased to $5 an hour, the small restaurant owner or food outlet has no option but to lay off a few people. And this is not helpful to those workers nor the business owner and neither the economy as a whole,” he explained.

He further pointed out that the price of everything will increase.

“The cost of living will rise along with the price of everything else – including “butter” and “lamb chops”. Madam Speaker, inflation will accelerate causing instability in the economy.”

He said that the other sad part, Madam Speaker, is that the 130,000 or so Fijians who are self-employed and do not receive wages like market vendors will get affected adversely without a single cent in­crease to their income.

“They just end up paying more. This is the reality of what the Opposition is proposing Madam Speaker,” the A-G said.

He said on one hand the politi­cal parties were wanting to give $100 per tonne for cane but at the expense of increasing the price of everything else.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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