September 05, 2012

Fiji wage increase won't end poverty, employers warn

Bruce Hill
Updated Mon Sep 3, 2012 5:44pm AEST

Fiji's employers' federation has warned that increasing wages will not end poverty in the country, and will likely lead to job losses.

Nesbitt Hazelman, CEO of the Fiji Commerce and Employers' Federation, was responding to claims made by Father Kevin Barr -- who has just resigned as head of Fiji's Wages Councils -- that "greedy and selfish" employers conspired to keep wages low.

"Over the past several years there has always been an increase in minimum wage," Mr Hazelman told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.

"We've had trying times, investment has died up in Fiji, but we've always managed to come to an agreement that is workable within industries."

Mr Hazelman dismissed Father Barr's claims as "irresponsible", explaining that some of the unions' demands were unreasonable and could not be met.

"We've always tried to find middle-ground. Some of these wage increases are astronomical. Trade unions are bringing in increases last year of up to 45 per cent in some of the job categories. There is no way industry can sustain that kind of increase," he said.

He said such wage increases could result in job losses, especially among small and medium-sized businesses who already struggle to make a profit.

"The larger employers are already paying way above minimum wage, its the smaller employers we're trying to protect here. There needs to be a demarcation," he said.

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