Cook Islands to review minimum wage
The Cook Islands government is appealing to the public for input on the local minimum wage. The Minimum Wage Review Panel is compiling a report which will be submitted to the Internal Affairs Minister.
The Cook Islands government is appealing to the public for input on the local minimum wage.
The Minimum Wage Review Panel is compiling a report which will be submitted to the Internal Affairs Minister at the end of the month.
Panel Chair and Director of Labour and Employment Relations Patricia Tuara-Demmke talked to Koro Vaka'uta about the process which led to an historic increase last year.
PATRICIA TUARA-DEMMKE: We have an employment relations act that was passed in 2012. When that was passed one of the stipulations in the act was to have a review of the minimum wage every year. Last year we had a panel of five people representing the various sectors. One person for employers, one for employees, one for the community, myself as the chair and one from our Finance Ministry. We meet and we have criteria that we work on and we hold public consultations seeking input. The goal of our work as a panel is to provide a report to our Minister of Internal Affairs. It will help guide his decision on what the rate for the year will be. Prior to last year there was a minimum wage set a long, long time ago back in 2006 and it was five dollars. Since then nothing was done until we met last year as a panel. After consultations we recommended it be raised from five dollars to six.
KORO VAKA'UTA: So you've produced this issues paper, what went into producing this?
PTD: On the panel we have a member of the Chamber of Commerce so he represents the employers. We also have the President of the Cook Islands Workers Association so he represents the employees. We have a representative from the Ministry of Finance and then myself I'm Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Labour sector. We also have somebody who has been selected by the minister who is the representative from the community.
KV: Have you been happy in the past with the level of public input in this process and do you expect it to continue?
PTD: I would have liked to have more feedback from the Pa Enua, that's the outer islands, so we are focussing a lot on getting more feedback from them this year as well as from Rarotonga. We have public consultations. We are having a meeting coming up on the 17th of February. Each of the stakeholders, they have targeted consultations with the groups they're representing. We are also using the radio. We are also going on television. Also email and telephone too but what we've found is that it is a lot easier if it is face to face.
KV: Is there a particular stance in regards to the minimum wage that has already been met or come to before this consultation?
PTD: We don't make any assumptions until afterwards.
KV: So I take it last year there was the input to have it increased?
PTD: Everybody was agreed on that. It's not so black and white though. All of us would like get more money but you have to think about it on the side of the employer. How much can they afford to pay? We talked to business people on the outer islands where costs are quite high and for them to increase the minimum wage higher than six dollars last year would have meant them having to lay off some of their staff because they were already having to meet the costs of freight for goods and services to the outer islands at the same time. A lot of different factors it's not just that simple so we have to try and talk to as many people as possible.
Public submissions close on February 20.
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