NEWS

Acting PM Clears Air On Minimum Wage Rate For Unskilled Workers

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum reminded Fijians that it was the Bainimarama Government which introduced minimum wage rate for unskilled workers and not any previous Government. Speaking on
28 Feb 2018 12:00
Acting PM Clears Air On Minimum Wage Rate For Unskilled Workers
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.

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum reminded Fijians that it was the Bainimarama Government which introduced minimum wage rate for unskilled workers and not any previous Government.

Speaking on FBC’s Aaina programme, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was asked by host Shammi Lochan whether a $5 minimum wage rate was feasible and if it was, why Government had not implemented it.

Fiji’s first ever minimum wage rate was introduced in 2014 for unskilled workers which started at $2 an hour.

The first minimum wage rate was introduced after four months of extensive consultations held nationwide which was held between  May 6th and September 4th.

While the initial recommendation was $2.32, following concerns from small and micro enterprises, Government finalised the first minimum wage rate to $2.

Within three years, the minimum wage rate has been adjusted upwards three times.

It was increased in 2015 to $2.32 and again to $2.68 which is what it currently stands at.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum stressed that this was only for the unskilled workers such as someone cutting grass at a residential area or someone who babysits for a few hours per day.

He further explained that when minimum wage rates are adjusted other government policies such as free education, free bus fare, subsidised electricity and 90,000 litres of free water for low income families are also taken into account.

These initiatives mean that money which would have been spent here are now saved by families.

He said that having a $5 an hour minimum wage rate will in no way make any difference to those 130,000 to 150,000 people who are self-employed such as a market vendor or a woman selling vegetables at the roadsides.

He said it was not as if these people would start paying themselves $5 an hour.

However, the adverse impact of a drastic increase in minimum wage rate to $5 an hour would most certainly be felt by a person selling vegetables on the roadsides because at a small grocery store, that cost of paying that increased rate will be passed onto the customer.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also pointed out that in Fiji, a brick layer was earning as much as $9 an hour while a welder was getting somewhere around $16 an hour.

These people will also not necessarily see any increase in their salaries with a minimum wage rate of $5.

But, he also cautioned that increasing the rate to $5 without extensive consultation could also lead to a number of people losing their jobs, especially in the smaller businesses.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said as seen since 2014, there would be further increases in the minimum wage rate but it could not and should not be rushed into.

Minimum wage rate, he said, would increase as the economy does better.

Edited by Percy Kean

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