NEWS

Sayed-Khaiyum To NFP Business Bosses: Pay WORKERS $5 Hour Now

FijiFirst general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has challenged National Federation Party business bosses to start paying their workers at least $5 an hour. NFP has been advocating it as the minimum
19 Oct 2018 12:05
Sayed-Khaiyum To NFP Business Bosses: Pay WORKERS $5 Hour Now

FijiFirst general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has challenged National Federation Party business bosses to start paying their workers at least $5 an hour.

NFP has been advocating it as the minimum wage rate.

However, its leader, Biman Prasad, recently admitted in a private email exchange to a businesswoman that the $5 rate would be implemented in stages.

Mr Prasad was also questioned on FBC’s ‘4 the Record’ show whether his own candidates were paying $5 an hour to everyone working for them.

He did not provide a straight answer.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum made this call while campaigning in Sakoca, Tamavua.

NFP candidates, who have businesses, include prominent Labasa candidate Charan Jeath Singh.

“NFP is saying that it has a lot of business people in its party. Are they paying them $5 an hour wage?” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum asked.

“My challenge is that they start paying $5 an hour. None of them will.”

The Bainimarama-Government introduced minimum wage rate for unskilled workers, starting with $2 an hour and now stands at $2.68 an hour.

NFP is saying it will pay a minimum wage rate of $5 an hour.

SODELPA said it would pay $4 an hour and HOPE Party said they would pay $10 an hour.

“What we have said about people’s salaries, in particular in unskilled, workforce needs to increase, but we want it to increase in a manner that is affordable to people,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“We have to make sure when unskilled workers minimum wage rate goes up, the person with a certificate, his or her minimum wage also goes up.

“If this lady sitting here is working somewhere, earns $6 an hour, you have a house girl who looks after your baby when you go to work.

“If tomorrow you have to start paying your house girl $5 an hour, that is $40 a day, $200 a week. Will you still go and work at $6 an hour and pay your house girl $5 an hour”?

A chorus of “No” was heard from the crowd.

“You making a profit of $1 an hour. Half of that will go in the bus fare too. What we are saying is that we need to be realistic about it,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“You are earning $6 an hour after getting some kind of certificate, some kind of training. You will say, hang on, this person has no certificate and no training and is getting $5 an hour, my salary should be $12 an hour.

“That is precisely what will happen.

“What we are saying is that yes, we have increased it from $2 and reviewed it and we will review it again.

“We want it reviewed not only for the unskilled workforce, but also for those who are skilled.

“If you start paying the waiters and waitresses in hotels $10-$12 an hour, what do you think the prices at hotels would be? It would go up.

“So, the tourists from Australia and New Zealand will then prefer to go off to another reasonably priced destination like Indonesia or Solomon Islands or Vanuatu for holidays instead of Fiji.”

Parmod Chand:

NFP’s Parmod Chand, who has a bus company in Labasa, said he was already paying his staff members $5 an hour.

However, when asked if he was paying his bus drivers $5 an hour, he refused to comment.

“When we come into Government, it will be a legislation,” Mr Chand said.

On his bus drivers’ wage rate, he said: “I don’t have to tell you that. That is something between the bus company and the drivers. Talk to the operations’ manager.”

Charan Jeath Singh:

Mr Singh runs a business empire in Labasa and also in Suva. He recently opened a mall in Nabua where he also runs a supermarket.

He did not say anything about how much he paid his other employees. His responses were confined to his supermarket business, where he confirmed he was not even paying his cashiers $5 an hour.

Mr Singh said it would be “unfair” for him to pay $5 an hour to the cashiers when another supermarket down the road from him was paying their cashiers $3.28 an hour.

Mr Singh said if there was a legislation, he would do it because then others would also be doing it.

His explanation was that the supermarket margin was not enough, but he did not elaborate on whether he pays his other employees in other businesses $5 an hour.

He also made a startling revelation. He said an NFP government would implement the $5 an hour minimum wage rate with immediate effect.

“That is our policy. Nothing about phased implementation, where is it? That’s not the policy.”

When told we had a copy of their policy in front of us where it clearly stated that it would be increased in stages, Mr Singh said he also had a policy in front of him, which said it would be implemented immediately.

Prem Singh:

Nadi businessman Mr Singh admitted that he paid “some” of his staff $5 an hour, but not all. He also confirmed he did not employ any unskilled workers which means he pays his skilled staff less than $5 an hour.

Riddhi Damodar:

Riddhi Damodar said she did not employ any staff. When asked to confirm if she does not employ a house maid or a gardener, she said “I think I have answered your question”.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

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