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Analysis: Overtime Row Reveals Party Has Sufficient Funds To Pay Staff

Analysis: Overtime Row Reveals Party Has Sufficient Funds To Pay Staff
From left: Opposition Leader Marama Bale Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa, Tui Vitogo Wiliame Sovasova and Turaga Bale na Tui Cakau and SODELPA president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, during the SODELPA AGM in Namoli, Lautoka, last week. Photo: Peni Komsaisavai
July 06
10:10 2018

SODELPA Opposition Office saved $70,000 in 2016 and $60,000 in 2017, investigations reveal.

But the party headquarters rejected a request to pay staff more than $3000 in overtime because it was not covered in their job contracts.

The overtime pay was approved by the finance committee.

Party president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu defended their decision to turn down the overtime request because it was not part of the staff contracts.

He spoke on the issue at the party’s annual general meeting at Namoli Village in Lautoka last Saturday.

At the same meeting, Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa and fellow SODELPA MP, Ro Kiniviliame Kiliraki, expressed their disagreement against the party headquarters’ decision.

They were concerned that it would affect the MPs’ research and preparation for Parliament, especially the Budget debate.

The workers had been told to take time off instead of being paid overtime.

But the question now being asked internally is if there is money there why can’t the workers get paid?

The surplus in the Opposition Office is enough to pay for overtime for the rest of the year.

In a crucial time like this when the MPs are preparing their Budget responses, they need all the help they can get in terms of research.

But if the staff are not there, they might have to do it themselves.

This week MPs have been at the Opposition Office attending Budget briefings and preparing their responses. Up until yesterday, they have not seen Ratu Naiqama although he is known to have rang the office.

Not only are workers unhappy with him, the MPs are disappointed too.

So he might not be welcomed if he turns up. He might do his own research too because there might be no staff member to do it.

The overtime row is more than just pay for the workers. Most of these staff members are young and belong to the youth force. There is danger that the party could face a serious backlash from the youths.

It has happened once before when Pita Waqavonovono took a portion of the youth wing away from SODELPA after Sitiveni Rabuka was elected party leader. The party has been conducting a membership drive rebuilding its youth base and empowering youths.

It has also been campaigning for a fair and just wage with a minimum rate of $4 an hour and rights for workers.

Its position on overtime could undermine its campaign for workers. The argument is that if it cannot deal with a small group of workers, how can it manage the nation’s workforce if it forms the government? The issue could have been dealt with internally instead of public airing it got at the AGM.

MPs are hoping there will be a change of heart soon and the staff are paid for their overtime. If not, the party would find it difficult, to convince the labour force.

Ro Teimumu has been attacked on social media by some and accused of undermining the party by speaking out.

Others have come to her defence saying she was trying to save the party from the negative implications of the party’s stand.

The fact is she spoke out as a matter of principle on how the party should deal with its workers.

Are women taken seriously?

The controversial motion to expel Sainiana Radrodro from the party, has raised one question: “Are women taken seriously by the party?”

Mrs Radrodro is the wife of SODELPA parliamentarian Aseri Radrodro.

The issue is still trending on social media on the gender debate.

Many party members including women have contributed to social media discussions on a number of issues. Her crime was speaking her mind.

But her singling out in a motion by USA Tovata SODELPA has shocked many who did not expect to see it coming.

It is now been generally felt that the motion should have not been discussed. It has publicly humiliated her and the women fraternity. In some quarters, it is even suggested that the party should apologise to her.

Ratu Isireli Vesikula, who wrote a letter calling for unity, clarified yesterday that he did it in his capacity as the head of the Kubuna USA SODELPA not, as Tailevu USA SODELPA.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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