Garment, manufacturing and retail workers in Fiji will benefit from better wages and enforcement of their rights under UnionAID’s project.
Low wages mean many workers in Fiji’s garment, manufacturing and retail sectors live below the poverty line. Workers in the garment sector are entitled to a minimum wage of just NZ$1.40/hr and minimum wages in the manufacturing and retail sectors are only slightly higher. Shockingly a 2012 report by the ILO suggested many workers aren’t even paid these minimum wages as poor enforcement means employers can easily flout the law.
Fiji’s system of Wage Regulated Orders covers about 60% of workers with a further 30% of workers members of unions and covered by collective agreements. Increasing the regulated minimum wages and their enforcement is thus an important first step to reducing poverty in Fiji until access to collective bargaining can be improved.
UnionAID’s 10 month project aims to improve workers understanding of their wage rights and how to enforce them as well as ultimately increase the level of the regulated minimum wages. UnionAID’s project leader, Kuini Lutua, has extensive experience in union organising and campaigning and is the former General Secretary of the Fiji Nurses Association. She will be working alongside the National Union of Factory and Commercial Workers (NUFCW) in Fiji.
The project will provide garment, manufacturing and retail workers in the Suva area with education and training about their rights under Fiji’s Wage Regulated Orders and support them to enforcement these rights. It will also improve both workers and unions understanding of the process for setting Wage Regulated Orders through the Fiji Wages Council. This is intended build capacity of both the workers and the NUFCW to advocate for a higher minimum wage in future decision making rounds of the Fiji Wages Council.
The project is due to be completed in September 2015.