Group Irate Over NFP’s Plan

Plans by the National Federation Party (NFP) that would force the private sector to do away with contracts has disturbed the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation. Just days before the
07 Nov 2018 11:48
Group Irate Over NFP’s Plan
Nesbitt Hazelman.

Plans by the National Federation Party (NFP) that would force the private sector to do away with contracts has disturbed the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation.

Just days before the election, the NFP has dropped another bombshell. It intends to get the private sector to do away with contracts and hire people on a tenure basis, which means the party wants to implement laws that will force the private sector to do away with contracts.

Speaking on FBC’s Aaina talkback show with host Shammi Lochan, long-time trade unionist Attar Singh let this NFP plan slip when he entered into a debate with FijiFirst general secretary Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

This has not gone down well with the federation and big employers who warned such “draconian” policies would send wrong signals to local and foreign investors.

While debating on contracts for the civil servants, Mr Singh revealed they had plans to enforce this on privately-owned businesses too.

Federation chief executive officer Nesbitt Hazelman said: “The Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation’s views are apolitical and based on business practice throughout the world.

“Any such draconian move to infringe on our rights will send the wrong signal to current and potential investors, both local and foreign.

“The private sector prides itself in its ability to attract and retain high quality and high-performing individuals and to do that we are able to offer attractive working conditions and competitive salaries. The notion of a “one size fits all” through a tenure arrangement is not what we in the private sector aspire to, we pay for talent and this is managed through individual contracts.

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with individual contracts because it affords employees the right to negotiate their own terms and conditions of employment and remove any third-party involvement. The private sector has embraced the employment contract and we will protect our rights vigorously.

“We do not support Mr Singh’s view on individual contract, his view may have something to do with the reduction in union membership over the years,” he said.

Mr Singh had said: “Absolutely. We are saying either private or public service have lifetime employment. That will be by law. Every employment is permanent.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum cautioned him that such statements were similar to dangling carrots in front of the voters and were not well thought-out by NFP.

Minimum wage rate and people’s reaction:

Mr Singh was caught off guard when calls flooded in asking how the NFP would help them pay their employees $5 an hour minimum wage the party is proposing.

A single mother from Nakasi questioned over the phone how she could afford to pay her nanny $5 an hour and how she would be able to get a tax rebate from NFP.

Mr Singh said she would be assisted, but when she asked when, Mr Singh was unable to answer.

This was one of the many contradictions of Mr Singh. He said the reduction of VAT on 15 food items would not reduce Government revenue, but later he agreed there would be a reduction.

He also snapped at a number of callers calling in to praise the FijiFirst Government.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum in contrast, kept his cool and reminded Mr Singh that on the very same show he had received a number of criticismds from callers in the past and that Mr Singh’s response to callers was not acceptable.

Mr Singh also specified that NFP would take time to determine who could get assistance from Government in paying of the wage shortfall.

Government subsidy:

Mr Singh said bigger companies were able to pay $5 an hour and alleged that supermarkets fell in this category, which could pay.

“There are a lot of big companies that make a lot of profit and their employees work on $3 an hour. Look at the cashiers at the supermarkets?” Mr Singh asked.

What he did not state on the show is that fellow NFP candidate, Charan Jeath Singh owns a supermarket and had confirmed that he does not pay his employees $5 an hour.

Fijian Holdings Limited chief executive officer Nouzab Fareed said Mr Singh should retire and that he was unable to comprehend how the private sector operated.

“How old is he? This old way of thinking is taking us back to the 1960s where employment was given in return for food and accommodation,” Mr Fareed said.

“We have 250 workers who have flexible hours. Does he know what flexible hours are? He has never worked in the private sector so he does not know anything at all. He has no nous about the private sector, so it would do him well and for his party not to try to implement policies, which they have no clue about. He needs to retire now.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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