Opinion

ANALYSIS: Moving Forward At A Steady Pace

What a week this has been. Despite what the naysayers and doomsayers say about our progress as a nation, events this week paint a positive picture. The events show we
06 Jul 2015 14:40
ANALYSIS: Moving Forward At A Steady Pace

What a week this has been.

Despite what the naysayers and doomsayers say about our progress as a nation, events this week paint a positive picture.

The events show we are moving forward at a steady pace.

The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, has set the pace and the tone himself.

First, he extended the olive branch to the trade unions to come to the negotiating table in a bid to resolve the stand-off between Government and the unions.

Then he announced the extension of the flag design consultations to December 31 in reply to the unprecedented response for more discussions on the new flag.

Hot on their heels is the announcement of a new air services agreement between Fiji and Tonga which will benefit both countries.

To cap off a great week, the Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, Jioji Konrote, announced that thousands of workers would benefit from a new minimum wage rate.

 

Back to industrial relations

Mr Bainimarama is leading by example when he calls on trade unions to attend talks. He says his Government is ready to talk. All parties, including the employers should now engage. Nothing will be achieved in a stand-off. It will harden hearts, polarise the respective parties and escalate the dispute to a level where it becomes unmanageable. Last week I spoke about the importance of continuing dialogue. This is the right time to do it. Government is willing; the employees are ready. It’s up to the unions now. If they are serious about championing the workers’ rights, they will not hesitate to grab this opportunity. This is no time for grandstanding. A cynical reaction to the PM’s invitation from a corner of the trade union leadership is the kind of negative stuff that we do not need at this time.

Like I said last week, more can be achieved around the table than outside.

On the flag debate, Mr Bainimarama showed his Government listens to the people. He realises that many people want to engage in the discussions. So he has extended the deadline to December 31 to allow for it. He has taken the wind off the sails of his opponents trying to exploit the issue for political advantage.

The air service deal with Tonga and the improvement of the basic wage rate are key economic performance indicators. The air service agreement contains a lot of potentials. It could mean more planes and more jobs for Fiji Airways.

The icing on the cake for a great week was the raising of the national minimum wage rate from $2 an hour to $2.32. Thousands of workers both from the informal and formal sectors will benefit.

The increase reflects a buoyant economy that enjoys a stable and peaceful environment.

It also shows the growing confidence of this Government to pass on economic gains to the ordinary people.

When world oil prices dropped, the Government reduced local fuel prices accordingly. It brought smiles to many motorists, transport companies and businesses in general because of the savings they would make.

Wage increases mean more disposal income for workers. More money in the pocket helps stimulate economic growth.

To maintain this growth, we need the Government, the employers and the trade unions to reach an agreement on the proposed labour reforms and avert a Commission of Inquiry by the International Labour Organisation governing body.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 


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