SUNBIZ

1400 Fiji Jobs Could Go To Asia: Towler

Over one thousand Fijian jobs may be lost to South Asia if the manufacturing sector does not resume operations within the next two weeks. The Textile Clothing Footwear Council of
27 May 2021 11:00
1400 Fiji Jobs Could Go To Asia: Towler
A file photo of a garment factory in the Central Division.

Over one thousand Fijian jobs may be lost to South Asia if the manufacturing sector does not resume operations within the next two weeks.

The Textile Clothing Footwear Council of Fiji made the revelation amid the industry’s negotiations with the ministries of Commerce and Health.

Two major Fiji factories are likely to close their operations where 1400 jobs could go to South Asia instead, council president Mike Towler said.

“One factory in Suva employs 900 people; another factory with 500 workers operates out of Lautoka,” he said.

“There is the Permanent Secretary for Health, Doctor James Fong trying to save lives.”

“And we’re here, trying to save livelihoods.”

“But the authorities have raised the bar so high that they are resigning the industry to poverty for the rest of their life.”

 

Conditions
Mr Towler said the council was prepared to reduce staff numbers to 35 per cent of the workforce, for each shift.

“They’ll work two shifts; the factories will open seven days a week.”

“That way, COVID-19 protocols are adhered to, and people are able to put food on the table.”

“We’re so close to the edge of the cliff that some of us will fall off the cliff,” he said.

Mr Towler co-owns and manages Performance Flotation Development Fiji Limited, a garment factory based in Nabua, Suva.

He said his business might be the third factory to close if operations are not allowed to resume.

 

Loss Of Customers
His business has lost 30 per cent of its customers since the latest COVID-19 protocols prompted the temporary shutdown of the manufacturing sector.

Performance Flotation Development has been in operation for over 20 years in Fiji.

The company exports to New Zealand and Australia.

“We will lose the remaining 70 per cent of our clients if the factories do not open next week.”

SunBiz wrote and made telephone calls to the Ministry of Commerce.

No response was issued when this edition went to press.

 

Unattainable
According to Mr Towler, the authorities wanted the manufacturing sector to meet conditions that were unreasonable and unattainable.

The conditions included staff living on site under military guard, to avoid incidences of workers fleeing for home under the cover of darkness.

“The majority of our workers are female – a good 80 per cent of them,” Mr Towler said.

“They are married with children.

“To have them live on site on ad hoc basis is discriminatory to these women.”

 

Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.com.fj



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