9 Sep 2013

Hefty pay rises for Fijian officials alleged

4:26 pm on 9 September 2013

Fiji's Trades Union Congress says permanent secretaries of government departments and the heads of the military, prisons and police have been given pay increases of up to 192 percent.

This follows a review by pricewaterhousecoopers.

The salaries of those heading the disciplined services and the top five permanent secretaries positions, as of last week, were US$116,000.

The national secretary of the FTUC, Felix Anthony, told Don Wiseman such monumental rises can never be justified.

FELIX ANTHONY: More particularly at a time like this when the country is facing very difficult times. We have 60% of our people living under the poverty line. And, of course, the workers in the civil service and other government-owned enterprises like the sugar corporation, have not had a wage adjustment for seven years, seven straight years. And here these guys are simply rewarding themselves while there's no money for the common man who slogs every day.

DON WISEMAN: The valuation by pricewaterhousecoopers, is it going to extend down through the public service?

FA: No. My understanding is that that was specifically done for those positions only.

DW: These people are going to be receiving, if we think of it in terms of US dollars, $110,000 annually. What's the average wage in Fiji?

FA: Well, the majority of civil servants earn, when they start off, a minimum of Fijian $10,000, which is US$5,000. The majority of civil servants are between the Fijian $10,000 and the Fijian $40,000 mark, which is US$20,000. So this has created a huge disparity in the wage relativity's from the bottom up. And we believe these increases are unjust and totally uncalled for, something that Fiji simply cannot afford at this time. We believe that the government ought to look at a wage adjustment for all civil servants, and it may not cost them an additional Fijian $2.7 million, as it has for the 27 people.

DW: If we can look at the sugar workers that you mentioned, clearly you are closely involved with those workers and there is still pending, this strike. Is that likely still to go ahead?

FA: Yes, that dispute remains pending at the moment. The executive committee will determine a time for action. But I think the irony here is that we have the Permanent Secretary for Sugar himself receiving a 103% wage increase, while at the same time he refuses to talk to the union about workers who simply are struggling to put food on the table. And when these workers demand wage adjustment nowhere near what the Permanent Secretary for Sugar is getting, what we get is intimidation, we get threats and we get the military, on workers in the mills. So you can see the situation and the discrimination that goes on in Fiji when it comes to the common worker, the man down the street who struggles to put food on the table.