18 Sep 2006

Fiji's garment industry fails to secure exemption from maternity leave provisions

11:36 am on 18 September 2006

Fiji's garment industry has apparently failed to win an exemption from the planned maternity leave provisions in the new Employment Relations Bill.

Most of the workers in the industry are women.

The provision would grant female workers 84 days maternity leave on full pay.

The garment industry said in a submission to the government that it couldn't afford to pay full maternity leave.

The owner of Mark One Apparel, Mark Halabe, says they proposed that the employer pay 50 percent and the other half could be paid through the employees National Provident Fund.

"Our recommendation as in industry was that employers would pay 50 percent of their normal wages and the other 50 percent could be if the person wishes to access that particular fund."

Mr Halabe says the industry is struggling against competition from China, which doesn't even have maternity leave.

Fiji's Council of Trade Union has welcomed a parliamentary committee decision to not include a submission from the garment industry in the new Bill.

But the general secretary of the Council of Trade Unions, Attar Singh, says the industry has been making noises about its submission not being included.

We did also hear continuous complaints from the garment industry since then - they would have liked to see garment workers excluded from coverage.