Fiji Labour Party is appalled at government’s unilateral and unlawful decision to scrap the Wages Councils.
“The Wages Councils are provided for in law through the Wages Councils Act (Cap 98 of 1960) and cannot be scrapped at the whim of government. To do so requires parliamentary sanction,” said Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
“It is an anti-worker move in flagrant defiance of the spirit of tripartism,” Mr Chaudhry said.
Father Kevin Barr, former chairman of the Wages Councils, described it as “pretty awful”. He also said government should have taken the issue to Parliament instead of taking a unilateral decision to scrap the councils.
“What they are doing is absolutely wrong. I would like to see the people stand up to such government actions,” said Father Barr.
Father Barr has always been a strong advocate of social justice and workers’ rights. People will remember that in August 2012 he resigned as chairman of the Wages Councils in protest at repeated government decisions to drastically reduce or knock back recommendations for wage increases made by the various Councils.
“…every wage proposal made by the Wages Councils had been opposed by a small group of influential employers. What is worse, government allowed this greedy and selfish group of employers to get their own way and crush the hopes of the workers of the country for modest wage increases to assist them cope with the rapidly increasing cost of living,” an outraged Father Barr said at the time.
On Tuesday FTUC walked out of the Employment Relations Advisory Board meeting in protest at government’s decision to scrap the Wages Councils which regulate wages of unorganised and unskilled workers such as those in the garment industry.
FLP fully supports the stand taken by the Fiji Trades Union Congress and calls on the trade union movement to take action to oppose such unilateralism in the strongest terms possible.
Labour says government’s decision to appoint a consultant to advice on a minimum national wage is wrong. For one, the civil service has the expertise to deal with this in an advisory capacity to the Wages Councils.
Secondly, determination of wages is not an issue that should be dealt with by an individual who can be easily influenced by government. It should be considered by a team comprising union and employers’ representatives and independents.
“We see the scrapping of the Wages Councils as one of a series of anti-people moves by this government, as was the imposition of a 9% VAT on basic food items in January 2016,” Mr Chaudhry said.