|Tue Jun 04|
|Thu Oct 10|
|Mon Nov 04|
|Wed Dec 25|
|Thu Dec 26|
SPEECH BY MR USAMATE AT THE 101st SESSION OF THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CONFERENCE
ADDRESS BY THE FIJI MINISTER FOR LABOUR, INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AND EMPLOYMENT, HON. JONE USAMATE, AT THE 101st SESSION OF THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CONFERENCE
(ILC Plenary Session, UN Building, Geneva: Monday, 11th June, 2012, --- pm)
The ILO Director General, Mr. Juan Somavia;
The President of the Conference; Distinguished Delegates and Observers.
The Fijian Government acknowledges the visionary and transformative leadership of the outgoing ILO Director-General, Mr. Juan Somavia, and in particular his social justice legacy of Decent Work for All.
I congratulate Mr. Guy Ryder, the newly appointed ILO Director-General elect.
The global employment outlook is bleak and policy coordination is becoming more complex in our multi-polar world economy. As highlighted in Director-General’s last Report on A New Era of Social Justice, governments are preoccupied with financial stability and growth, with less attention given to people-issues such as employment and social protection. This pre-occupation has undermined our individual and collective gains over the years.
Mr. President, our Decent Work vision is seriously challenged, and we are losing our spiritual focus of putting full employment and social protection at the heart of our wealth creation policies.
This challenge demands a response, and the Fijian Government is anticipating the recommendations of the two Committees on the Youth Employment Crisis and the Social Protection Floor.
Despite our vulnerabilities, the Fijian Government is actively addressing this global challenge of jobless growth, and we are committed to reducing our unemployment rate, particularly the youth unemployment. The Fijian Government quickly established a National Employment Centre as a “one-stop” employment creation service for all unemployed Fijians in December 2009. The Centre provides national registration, professional counseling, aptitude assessment, life skills training, employment skills training and workplace attachments to boost skills development for the unemployed, redundant workers and retirees; and to facilitate their absorption in formal employment, overseas employment, self-employment or to assist them to serve as volunteers under the new Fiji Volunteer Service.
Government will introduce for the first time this year a national minimum wage in Fiji to complement the existing 10 industry minimum wages set by the respective tripartite Wages Councils.
Government will also introduce a reformed workers compensation scheme to provide better social security benefits with speedier payments.
Government already has in place a basic social protection floor. Apart from the Fiji National Provident Fund and Workers Compensation Schemes, the Fijian Government has committed about $80 million this year to further reduce poverty. This allocation provides for the following targeted social protection measures:
- income generating activities for the unemployed and squatters through start-up capital;
- monthly allowances for destitute families;
- food voucher scheme for the elderly, pregnant mothers and children in remote rural areas;
- monthly cash grants to families and guardians supporting orphans and abandoned children ;
- grants to NGOs supporting Government in poverty alleviation activities;
- projects to enhance social and economic empowerment of women;
- free or concessional bus fare for senior citizens and disabled persons;
- subsidy on electricity for residential customers and schools;
- infrastructure investments in rural areas, and access to education, health care, basic utilities and financial services;
- provision to assist first home buyers purchase homes;
- upgrading and resettlement of squatters; and
- price controls on basic food items, fuel, medicines and hardware.
Government has also increased the tax free threshold this year, and substantially reduced income tax rates for all other workers.
Fiji enjoys fee-free education, and bus fare assistance for needy children. To facilitate “school to work” transition, Government has mainstreamed Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) into the school system.
The Fijian Government is making substantial progress towards holding a truly democratic general elections in 2014. A UN Mission visited Fiji in April and has helped us to effectively address the corrupt practices and flaws of past elections in order to ensure that we have a truly free and fair general elections. We have commenced our Constitution Awareness Programme and will start our electronic voter registration next month.
The Fijian Prime Minister has established a five-member Independent Constitutional Commission, which includes an eminent human rights expert, Professor Christina Murray, and which is chaired by world-renown constitutional expert, Professor Yash Ghai.
This Commission will receive submissions from all Fijians and all sectors of the Fijian society, including trade unions and employer groups. It will draft a new, better, non-race based Constitution for Fiji by 2013. The Constitution will guarantee universally accepted principles of a secular State; common and equal citizenry with one person-one vote; an independent judiciary; removal of all forms of discrimination; and eradication of systemic corruption.
We are reviewing our current labour policies, laws and practices to ensure compliance with all ratified ILO Conventions through the tripartite Employment Relations Advisory Board. A report on this review will be relayed to me this year before I submit it to Cabinet. Fiji has, this year ratified or adopted 8 ILO instruments, amongst which is the Maritime Labour Convention 2006. We hope that Australia will also honour the core ILO Conventions and will address the human rights issues against its indigenous population.
We acknowledge the assistance pledged by Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and the United States of America, to assist our general election process.
I thank you Mr. President, Sir.