The Fiji Labour Party is shocked at the Interim Government’s decision to defer implementation of the Wages Council Order and to rescind the directive for a 10% reduction in bus fares.
Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry said it was clear that government had succumbed to pressure from the rich and powerful in society.
The 20% increase in the Wages Council Order announced recently applies to the lowest rung of workers, mainly women in the garment industry and security guards who work long, rigorous hours at low pays.
Their wages have been suppressed for the past couple of decades. As a result, their wage rates today are 50% below the poverty line.
“We all know that low wage rates are the root cause of poverty in Fiji. Government should have the moral courage to stick to decisions that will ensure social justice for all, otherwise all this talk about poverty alleviation becomes mere rhetoric,” Mr Chaudhry said.
“It is time for government to start thinking of the plight of the poor if it is not to be seen as yet another administration favouring the rich,” he said.
Mr Chaudhry said the employers who have put pressure on government are the ones who have always resisted paying just wages to their employees. The Time is never right for them – they resist any move which would ensure a living wage to their workers.
We have employers, on the other hand, who pay their workers unionized wage rates and yet their businesses are flourishing.
The floods, the global economic crisis and the price increases have hit the ordinary people just as hard as it has hit businesses and industries. The needs of the poor are just as imperative.
The decision to rescind a decrease in bus fares is also morally wrong. Fare increases were granted as compensation for hikes in the price of diesel. But now that the cost of fuel has declined significantly, the higher bus fare increase is not justified, particularly at this time of acute social distress.
“Bus companies are claiming that the Minister’s directive to reduce bus fares by 10% is unlawful. Yet some years back when bus fares were increased 10% through a Ministerial directive, I heard no complaints from bus operators then that the directive was unlawful.
“There are certain businesses and unscrupulous employers who will do anything to exploit the poor and maximize profits for themselves. They have to learn that, in the long term, they can only thrive in a just and fair society,” Mr Chaudhry said.
“The Fiji Labour Party will be writing to Government to reconsider its decision. Workers and the poor cannot be expected to carry the brunt of all our economic ills,” Mr Chaudhry said.