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A-G: $2.32 Hourly Minimum Wage Rate For Unskilled Workers ONLY

The Attorney-General and acting Prime Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has stressed once again that the minimum hourly wage rate of $2.32 set by Government is for unskilled workers only. The minimum
16 Oct 2016 11:00
A-G: $2.32 Hourly Minimum Wage Rate For Unskilled Workers ONLY
Attorney-General and acting Prime Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, greets Fiji Trade Union Congress General Secretary, Felix Anthony, yesterday at the 2016 Top Executives (TOPEX) Conference. Photo: Office of the Attorney-General

The Attorney-General and acting Prime Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has stressed once again that the minimum hourly wage rate of $2.32 set by Government is for unskilled workers only.

The minimum wage rate was initially set at $2 and then after a review, it was increased to $2.32 per hour.

And now, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum stated, another review was being carried out to see if this can be increased further.

But, he has emphasised this does not stop employers from paying their workers more than the minimum wage. In fact, employers have been urged to pay more if possible.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum made these comments yesterday at the 2016 Top Executives (TOPEX) Conference at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau Island.

His comments came after a presentation by Fiji Trades Union Congress General Secretary, Felix Anthony.

Mr Anthony had stated the FTUC continues to campaign for increase in the minimum wage rate in order to eradicate poverty.

He had suggested it would be better wages which can take these people out of poverty.

But Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Government’s perspective on the minimum wage rate was it was for unskilled workers.

He said for the first time in Fiji, there now is a minimum wage rate for unskilled workers.

And indeed, there were many unskilled workers around the country who were exploited as a result and continue to be exploited despite this minimum wage rate being implemented.

 

Looking at the informal sector

However, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the common practice was to focus on the formal sector and it was the informal sector many a times which got overlooked or forgotten.

“We always tend to focus on the formal sector of employment. There are so many people in Fiji who are not part of the formal sector,” he said.

“We also have many people employed in the informal sector also.

“I stopped yesterday in Korovisalou and bought Kavika, bananas and coconuts and I talked to the ladies selling these.

“They told me sometimes they make $200 a week, sometimes $250 a week and sometimes only $50 a week.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s point was given these women in the informal sector are not even able to generate so much income, how would a not well-thought out minimum wage affect them and others like them?

“Will it have an impact on the price of goods and services we buy? Will it affect their ability to hire their nephew who got out of school and wants to join their business?” he questioned.

“Will they be taken to the employment court for not paying the $4 or $5 minimum wage? These are the critical issues you need to understand.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said there are tens of thousands of people employed in Fiji informally and therefore we need to think about these people as well.

“Those fishers – most of them do not even have a TIN number. Some might hire their nephews from the village to catch the fish and have a shared approach for profits,” he said.

“They aren’t going to be affected by the $4 an hour minimum wage – but it will affect the cost of fuel and boat accessories.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum reemphasised he was not arguing for a non-increase in the minimum wage.

Rather, he was explaining why Government cannot simply push up the minimum wage rate for unskilled workers so sharply, that it becomes unsustainable for those in the informal sector who are the ones who get affected.

Feedback:  rachnal@fijisun.com.fj 



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