August 20, 2012

Barr quits over wages

Nasik Swami
Saturday, August 18, 2012

WAGES Council chairman Father Kevin Barr resigned from his position yesterday.

Confirming this to The Fiji Times, Fr Barr said he resigned in protest for workers because of government's decision to put a hold on the 10 new Wages Regulations Orders 2012 until October 31.

He said another reason for his resignation was because the government was allowing employers to dominate the 10 Wages Regulations Orders without taking into consideration the plight of the workers.

"The Wages Council made three submissions in the last four years seeking an increase in the wages for workers but it was deferred by the government every time the matter was put forward," he said.

He said the employers were given utmost priority in Fiji while the workers had been suffering with low wages.

"For how long will the workers suffer and for how long will they live in poverty?" he asked.

Fr Barr said many studies had proven that low wages in Fiji were one of the biggest factors leading to poverty.

He said a lot was being said but little done.

Attempts to get a comment from Minister of Labour Jone Usamate and permanent secretary Taito Waqa were unsuccessful.

However, a Ministry of Information statement said that the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment gave notice that the Wages Council, in accordance with section 54 (b) of the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007, had deferred the effective date of the 10 new Wages Regulations Orders 2012 from August 15 to October 31 in order for the respective wages councils to review all submissions made by the stakeholders.

Fr Barr said his protest was for all workers in Fiji who have been suffering by receiving low wages over the years.

"Workers in Fiji cannot protest like those in other countries so I am protesting in their name," Fr Barr said.

"Every time in Fiji you hear someone somewhere is trying to alleviate poverty. How can you do this when the root cause of poverty is not being addressed?"

He said he is taking a stand for justice of workers in Fiji.

Fr Barr outlined that he was told by government that the reason for the 10 Wages Regulations Orders to be put on hold until October 31 was to take into consideration the objections made against the order by the employers.

"The common objections against the order from the employers were that they cannot afford the increase or it was too high," he said.

Fr Barr asked "for how long will the people suffer when the cost of living is increasing nearly everyday."

He said the eight to 15 per cent increase in the wages for workers in the ten employment sectors including printing trades, wholesale and retail trades, hotel and catering trades, garment industry, sawmilling and logging industry, road transport, building and civil and electrical engineering trades, manufacturing industry, mining and quarrying industry and security services was not a big request.

Fr Barr said he would like to be in a job that helps the poor but constantly finds that his job is frustrating due to the limitations and actions imposed by few.

"My heart goes out to those workers with low wages," he said.

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