State told to bridge ‘divide’

Members of the public at the minimum wage rate consultation in Labasa. Picture: LUKE RAWALAI

LACK of training and economic development in the employment sector has widened the gap between the wage rates of unskilled labourers and other employees, says Chutes Chicken owner Ian Chute.

He said it was the responsibility of Government to try and bridge this divide.

Speaking at the national minimum wages consultation in Labasa last week, Mr Chute said it was not fair for unskilled workers to be having minimum wage rates at $2.68, while civil servants had theirs at more than $10.

“We should try and find out what is lacking because I remember being brought up in Udu, out in the rural areas, where every month the boat would visit our area to collect coconut at a time when the copra industry was at its prime,” he said.

“Our city and towns are full of people from rural areas, and if you look at it, we need to get up the industries to what they were to solve issues.

“In the past copra and sugar production was high.

“There is something wrong out there, we need to address it and the responsible ministries need to look into this.”

Mr Chute also raised concerns at the special treatment overseas investors received from government departments to process their licences.

“When companies come from overseas and put proposals down, it is fast and so their paperwork is all done and they can formalise their company,” he claimed.

“When this is done, their articles say they can do anything in Fiji and they are not restricted from anything.

“This is hurting a lot of local industries here.”

Responding to his concerns, Minister for Employment Parveen Kumar said the responsible ministry had said in Parliament that they would look into the special treatment given to overseas investors.

Minimum wages review consultant Professor Partha Gangaophyay said with the minimum wage in Australia, people still could not rent an apartment in Sydney, adding that their wages did not have the purchasing powers.

Mr Gangaophyay said raising the minimum wages was not the solution.

He said people needed high wages.

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