The Fiji Trades Union Congress says the Minimum Wage adjustment announced in the Revised 2021-2022 National Budget is a clear deal between some employers and the Government.
National Secretary Felix Anthony says while they firmly believe that the adjustment is long overdue, they will wait for its implementation.
He says the $4 minimum wage is not effective until 1st January 2023 well after the elections.
Anthony adds they also note that the reduction in FNPF contributions by employers have not been reinstated and is a gift to employers apart from other reliefs announced for employers.
He claims that the review of civil servant salaries is again another sweetener to entice civil servants to vote for this Government.
Anthony adds they also note that nothing has been said about fixed-term contracts for civil servants which threatens job security and promotes intimidation and fear amongst workers. He says the Minister for Economy so boldly declared that only “fools” would object to the increase in minimum wage, civil service salary review, reintroduction of overtime payment, removal of VAT on basic food items, removal of tax on petrol etc.
Anthony adds what the Minister for Economy did not say who in the first place had imposed all these taxes and objected to the reviews from taking place all these years.
He says the Minister is only cleaning the mess he created years ago.
Anthony adds the Attorney General must not forget that he has single-handedly been Minister of Everything for the past 15 years and therefore cannot call anyone else a fool but himself.
He says on a positive note, they are glad that the Minister has finally realized the mess that he presided over all these years.
The FTUC National Secretary says they recognize that all these issues are not new but have been on the agenda of all political parties and the FTUC.
He adds simply addressing them does not mean that all credit goes to the Government of the day.
Anthony stresses the credit goes to the people who will exercise their right to vote which moves the Government to do the right thing, at least before the election.
He went on to say that while many new initiatives have been announced in the hope that the economic recovery would be immediate which is why these initiatives are all to be effective immediately.
Anthony adds this is all to be implemented while the Government has announced new borrowing of $950 million which would mean a record debt level of almost $9 billion or about 83% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), of which government plans to cover $535 million through external financing, $343 million through domestic borrowing and $72m through cash reserves.
He says this is a massive increase and will become a huge burden for future generations.
Anthony adds they recognize the difficult position that this Government finds itself with the voters and the need for some desperate measures to win over voters. He further says of concern is the sustainability of the new measures announced.
The FTUC National Secretary adds they are aware of the last budget announcements where medicines were to be free in Government Hospitals only to find they were not available in hospitals.
He says even simple issues like injections were to be bought by patients from private pharmacies to be administered in the hospitals.
Anthony adds while it may be uplifting for some to hear all the good initiatives, we will need to wait and see how it is implemented and whether it is a temporary initiative just for the elections. He says the FTUC has experienced that such announcements during election time could well be temporary.
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