War of words over wages

Fiji First Party General Secretary Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum speaks during a Rally in Sigatoka. Picture: REINAL CHAND

WORDS have once again been exchanged between the FijiFirst party and the National Federation Party (NFP), this time regarding the issue of minimum wage in the country.

FijiFirst general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum spoke at the party’s family fun day in Nadi last weekend and challenged businesspeople from NFP to pay their workers $5 minimum wage an hour.

“I say this again and I’ve said it before, if the NFP is saying $5 an hour, why don’t their candidates who are businesspeople start paying their workers $5 an hour today. They won’t do it,” he said.

“This joker Charan Jeath Singh just did a post on Facebook and he said, oh, the Attorney-General should know that we’ll only pay $5 when it’s made legal. What an excuse.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said brick layers in Suva were getting about $7 to $8 an hour because of the demand.

“A welder in Suva gets paid $15 to $16 an hour because of demand. There’s nothing stopping them from paying it. They won’t pay it. “I challenge Parmod Chand, who owns a bus company, to pay his drivers $5 an hour. They’re only doing lip service.”

Responding to Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad said what Mr Chand and Mr Singh were paying or not was immaterial.

Prof Prasad said $5 minimum living wage an hour was not official government policy now and it would never be under FijiFirst.

He said there were many businesses in the country who were paying below the minimum wage rate.

“A social policy is implemented with a package of initiatives,” he said.

“Mr Sayed-Khaiyum knows this too well. The NFP will implement the minimum living wage of $5 an hour.

“It is not a hollow promise like FijiFirst’s gross betrayal of its 2014 election promise of maintaining VAT free seven basic food items and prescription medication by imposing 9 per cent VAT from January 1, 2016.”

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