22 June, 2018, 1:00 pm
UNION heads walked out of the Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB) this week over claims that Government had dissolved wages councils and engaged a consultant to advise them on the minimum wage.
Fiji Trades Union Congress national secretary Felix Anthony said the decision to disengage from the ERAB meeting on Monday was unanimous. “We walked out because we received confirmation that the wages councils will be no more,” he said.
“The (Employment and Industrial Relations) permanent secretary said the minister has decided to appoint a consultant who will advise him on the wages councils and on the minimum wage. “We question that whole approach. ERAB is supposed to be a tripartite institution. “What are we sitting there for? “Does he want us to rubber stamp whatever he decides and then tell the world that he has consulted with the unions? “Well, we are not going to give them that and we will no longer be part of ERAB if that is the attitude of Government.”
With workers’ representatives out of the picture, ERAB is now made up of Government and the employers who are represented by the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation.
Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation CEO Nesbitt Hazelman said it was unfortunate that workers would not be represented during discussions on employees’ rights and wages.
He said ERAB was supposed to be a tripartite institution and all parties — including Government — should work together to discuss and iron out issues in an amicable manner.
Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Jone Usamate said the decision by union leaders to walk out of the ERAB meeting on Monday was “their prerogative”.
He said the concerns raised by the unionists about the wages councils and minimum wage were non-issues.
“We have been using the same process in 2015, 2017 and 2018 (using a consultant) and no one walked out of the ERAB meetings then and they decided to walk out this time, that’s their choice, that’s their prerogative,” he said.
When quizzed about whether he was concerned that there was no worker representation, Mr Usamate said he would wait for the unions to return. “The door is always open should they wish to return.”