While CIWA president Anthony Turua says there are some positives and negatives in the 2015/16 budget, he says he has some serious concerns.
“The concern is conflicting statements that government cannot afford a minimum wage increase from $6 up to between $6.50 and $7 because of ‘affordability.’ However we find that almost a million dollars is going to tourism marketing and there’s a further increase of $10 for pensioners,” says Turua.
“Although the Budget indicates a reduction in the taxable rate for lower earners from 18 per cent down to 17.5 per cent from January 2016, which is good news for those on lower incomes, though it is only .5 per cent, the issue around cost of living remains the same for the rest of the workers,” says Turua.
He says that COLA (cost of living adjustment) is a hot topic being discussed around the international region at the International Labour Organisation conference in Geneva.
“We should be looking at allocating budget for workers who have been disadvantaged in the last decade in their purchasing power,” he said, speaking from Geneva.
“Health has been given an increase for three extra personnel, but what about the rest of the health workers who equally deserve to get an increase to complement the increase in the cost of living?”
Turua acknowledged that there was some good news in the Budget, such as the planned wage increase for teachers in taking on extra responsibilities.
“There is extra funding allocated for infrastructure development and economic development, but please let’s also balance the investment to our main asset of the country which is our workers,” he said.
“I remember the speech by the Minister of Labour during the media release on the minimum wage increase.
“He indicated that he wished he could give more money to workers but funding was a barrier. However, this budget indicates there is plenty of money available.”