PM Hailed As 11th Hour Saviour

The worry that 1400 Fijian jobs could be lost to Southeast Asia has been eased, with the garment sector hailing the Government’s initiatives to allow businesses to resume.
01 Jun 2021 15:22
PM Hailed As 11th Hour Saviour
Danam Fiji Ltd located in Lautoka is one of the industry leaders in apparel manufacturing in Fiji and the South Pacific.

The worry that 1400 Fijian jobs could be lost to Southeast Asia has been eased, with the garment sector hailing the Government’s initiatives to allow businesses to resume.

Elated chairman of the Fiji Textile Clothing and Footwear Council, Mike Towler, said: “My own personal feeling was euphoria.

“I then went onto my balcony after midnight and shouted “Hooray” from the rooftop, like it was a New Year celebration.

“My neighbours of Navikinikini village came out to see what I was cheering about.”

The council comprises 50 companies, most of whom trade heavily with Australia and New Zealand.

The multi-million dollar sector employs 7000 workers.

At 4am Sunday, borders within the Central Division – Nausori, Suva and Lami – were lifted to combine the three municipalities into one containment area.

The move followed an announcement by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on Saturday night.

It allows for more movement among the three centres.

“I can now drive from my home in Lami to my factory in Nabua without any hindrance of crossing a border,” Mr Towler said.

“This change to the different containment zones is the single biggest piece of assistance that the Government’s announcement has given us.

“We feel like we are all one again.”

Industry applause

Some council members must now apply for a permit with the Ministry of Commerce and Trade to enable business to re-open. (See report this page)

Mr Towler said: “For our industry, it is our saviour at the 11th hour.

“We sincerely thank Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama for his announcement.

“The jobs that were under threat of disappearing are now staying in Fiji. For us all, the Prime Minister’s announcement was like an angel appearing in the night to save us from the abyss that we were staring into.”

Mr Towler said members spent Sunday familiarising with COVIDSAFE plans for the reopening of business yesterday.

“We need to practise the plans and ensure strict adherence to the protocols,” he said.

“This is our chance to prove that we can operate these large factories safely with a COVIDSAFE plan, and strongly encourage all our staff to get vaccinated.

“The sector will operate with the mantra No Jab – No Job slogan.”

No jab, no job

Mr Towler co-owns and is managing director of Performance Flotation Development Fiji Limited, a garment factory that has operated out of Nabua for the past 20 years.

The company employs around 200 people, and exports to Australia and New Zealand.

“We will be operating two shifts.

“In my own factory, we are keeping track of our staff.

“Proof is required of those that have already been vaccinated with their first jab, and recording the date when their second jab is due.

“Vaccination is the only road out of the pandemic for us all.”

Mr Towler said the textile clothing and footwear industry was “very” pro-vaccination.”

Mark One 

Mark One Apparel owner and managing director, Mark Halabe, said the Government’s announcement gave the company a path forward to resume exports, and a chance to rebuild confidence with its customers.

“Our challenge now is to ensure we all can keep safe while the economy reopens,” he said from Australia.

Mr Halabe said workers who have yet to be vaccinated would eventually not be allowed into the working premises.

“They must commit to having the jab soon,” he said.

Lyndhurst Limited, another major garment factory which operates out of Valelevu’s tax free zone, acknowledged receipt of SunBiz queries, and said they would respond. The company did not respond to emails from SunBiz when this edition went to press.


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