Permanent Secretaries awarded hefty pay packets,
but ordinary workers denied COLA
Fiji’s escalating cost of living is a result of insensitive and unjust policies of the Bainimarama regime over the past 8 years, says Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
The regime’s decision to devalue the Fiji dollar by 20% in 2009 pushed food prices up 36% and reduced the purchasing power of the people. Increase in VAT to 15% in 2011 further hiked food prices by at least 30%. It sent a ripple effect down the economy forcing the cost of all goods and services up, including the utilities – water and electricity.
These increases were not compensated by wage increments for the average worker, leaving them facing severe hardship.
In fact, decrees were passed and policies initiated to suppress wages. Several decrees curtailed the right to collective bargaining for trade unions in the public service and key sectors of the economy.
Increases recommended by the Wages Councils for unorganized workers were either deferred or refused under pressure from employers.
But while ordinary workers were denied just increases, hefty pay rises of as much as 160% were awarded to Permanent Secretaries last year, most of who are now in the $1/4 million pay bracket.
Equally unjust and unlawful, was the 50% across the board slash in FNPF pensions arbitrarily imposed by the regime. It left some 90% of pensioners facing acute hardship, many with monthly stipends below the poverty line.
A further contributing factor to high living costs, is the increasing cost of doing business in Fiji – costs which are passed on to the consumer in higher prices of goods.