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The new pay rates were supposed to come into effect today

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 31, 2008) – The new Wage Regulations Order will come into effect in February, says the chairperson of the Wages Council, Father Kevin Barr.

The order was supposed to come into effect tomorrow but Fr Barr said the short time allowed on the consultation resulted in the deferment.

He said the order would be "gazetted in January but come into effect on the first day of February, 2009, after some amendments and corrections have been made".

The council and the business community were at loggerheads over pay increases for several sectors.

The business community had warned that some operators would be forced to close as they would not be able to meet proposed pay increase.

This stand-off after the National Wages Council approved pay increases for nine industries, including garments, printing, building, hotel and catering, security, road transport, saw milling and the wholesale and retail trades. Fr Barr had said some employers were refusing to increase wages despite generating huge profit through increased productivity.

He said when asked to show their financial records, many employers, for example, in the garment industry, refused to do so.

Fiji Employers Federation president Dixon Seeto said most of their members did not agree with the proposed wage increase. He said it had led to a meeting between FEF and the Wages Council this Friday.

He said federation members wanted a gradual increase "but a huge increase will have an adverse impact on the cost of doing business".

The garment industry, which has one of the lowest paid workforces, has received a 20 per cent pay increase compared to the old rate of $1.48 [US$0.84].

The learners in the industry will receive $1.50 [US$0.85] an hour, while the hourly rate for others will start at $1.78 [US$1.00].

The printing industry wage rate has been driven up from $1.70 to $2.20 an hour for learners and $2.12 to $2.65 an hour for others.

The building, civil, and electrical engineering industry received 40 to 50 cents increases in their hourly rates, and the hotel and catering industry received 35 cents across the board increases.

The new wage rate for manufacturing starts at $2.50 an hour, a 50 cents increase. For the security industry, the new wage rate starts at $2 an hour, an increase of 30 cents.

The road transport industry has received a 5 per cent increase across the board, wholesale and retail industry a 20 per cent increase and workers in the sawmilling industry a 40 cents increase in their hourly wage rate.

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