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Raise should be 'gradual'

Tevita Vuibau
Monday, June 19, 2017

THE Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) says political statements on increasing the national minimum wage rate needs to be weighed against the realities businesses face.

FCCI president Peter Mazey made the comment in response to National Federation Party (NFP) and the Fiji Labour Party's (FLP) views on increasing the minimum wage.

The NFP had said the current minimum wage rate of $2.32 an hour was simply insufficient for a family of four and suggested the wage be lifted to $5.

The FLP, meanwhile, said they believed the minimum wage should be revised immediately to $3.50/per hour before tripartite negotiations adjusted it further.

"National minimum or normal wage rates should be increased gradually to catch up on lost ground and it is unfair on any business to carry the burden of an unreasonable increase just because minimum wage rate or wages in general did not increase fast or high enough over the years," Mr Mazey said.

He explained the national minimum wage was meant only to capture those workers who did not fall under any particular industry where wages guidelines were listed by the ministry.

"Wherever we have wages guidelines for an industry, wage rates are clearly spelled out for each section of workers and in most cases, they are above the national minimum wage rate.

"It is wrong to assume, in principle, that a household of four persons would all be falling under this minimum wage rate only, as some of them would be working for a particular industry, hence, a particular wage guideline and earning higher rates already.

"If the minimum wage rate is increased to whatever amount, each and every wage guideline for each industry will also need adjustment to ensure that no employee is paid a rate below that of the new minimum rate as the current rates in the guidelines could fall lower than the new minimum rate."

He also explained that while industries and businesses were able to pass on the increased costs immediately, there were others who did not have that luxury.

"Many others are heavily regulated or will need to seek redress from government agencies for any increase in prices for goods and services and any sudden high rate of increases could create loss of jobs, loss of industries or further investments, less attractiveness for new investments (both local and foreign) and reduced growth and contribution towards our national economy."

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