Higher wages needed to stop Cook Islanders leaving
Cook Islands trade union leader says if the government is serious about overcoming depopulation it must increase public servants' wages.
A Cook Islands trade union leader says if the government is serious about overcoming depopulation it must increase public servants' wages.
The Cook Islands Workers Association's Anthony Turua says over the years workers have lost a lost of purchasing power and he is unhappy with a government dismissal of their call.
The financial secretary, Richard Neves, says the Cook Islands cannot afford a cost of living adjustment, upsetting Mr Turua.
Anthony Turua told Don Wiseman the workers have been missing out for years.
ANTHONY TURUA: I'm a bit saddened by the response because the public service hasn't had any wage increase in terms of the cost of living adjustment to 2007. You know the CPI movement has been averaging about three percent. So rightfully public servants are losing their purchasing power when the basic commodities have gone up. VAT has also gone up by two and a half percent. So although we have addressed the minimum wage increasing from $6 (Cook Islands dollars) however a salary increase for the public servants earning has not been adjusted for seven to eight years.
DON WISEMAN: Ok. And the government though is saying, well, there's no money.
AT: Exactly. I mean, as they say, they have no money. Well, a lot of money is now being spent on infrastructure. So if we are going to address depopulation in the Cook Islands, we need to pay our workers a decent wage and decent living. Already we've got a crisis in terms of our depopulation. So why they are leaving is purely because of remuneration.
DW: There have been comparisons made with what happens in New Zealand. And I know that people who are on the New Zealand super scheme who are living in the Cook Islands, they get adjustments, cost of living adjustments. So how do people feel about that?
AT: If there is any inflation adjustment in New Zealand, our New Zealand superannuation recipient that receives the funding also gets that adjustment. So for me, if it is good enough for the pensioners to receive that, I think the workers should be treated in the same model so that everybody gets a fair share of the cake.
DW: If the government says there's not enough money and they're not going to do annual cost of living adjustments, what's your standby position, how much would satisfy you to cover that eight years we haven't had any rises?
AT: The inflation rate is around about two to three percent per annum. That's almost about 24 percent. So really government should look at what's affordable and reduce the gap for purchasing power. Because government should look at what is affordable, and what is what we can retain our people on island and give them fair and decent wage so that they can purchase basic needs and put bread and butter on the table.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: