Inclusive consultations vital in wage debate

By Sapeer Mayron 19 January 2019, 12:00AM

An “enabling environment” for business could mean minimum wages rise sustainably alongside booming businesses, says the President of the Samoa Hotel’s Association (S.H.A.) Tupa’i Saleimoa Va’ai. 

Ahead of a review of the Labour and Employment Relations Act 2013, the minimum wage is back on the public agenda. 

As he gathers the opinions of his membership to contribute to discussions, Tupa’i Saleimoa Va’ai said there must be a way for Government to enable businesses to pay their staff a healthier wage without trimming margins.

Tupa’i said sometimes it’s about making business more efficient or profitable, and Government needs to support businesses to develop.

“The cost of living is increasing so then we need to do more business development alongside increasing wages,” he said.

“You need to push your business if you want to keep increasing wages and providing for your employees, you need to push your income up a bit, another 30 per cent or 40 per cent.”

Responding to the concerns that private sector has too much influence over the minimum wage decision, Tupa’i said the issue is a chicken and egg scenario that requires careful balance.

“Without the businesses there is no employment, but without employment of course, the employment is the driving force of any business.”

Last week, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi told his press secretariat that there is “no point” increasing the minimum wage if the private sector can’t afford it.

“We all want to raise minimum wage but it has to be a measured increase and at a level the private sector can absorb,” the Prime Minister said.

“There is no point in raising minimum wage and immediately results in businesses closing down.”

Tupa’i said intense and inclusive consultations are absolutely the best way forward.

He said he has seen the Government be a good partner to the private sector in the past and expected the upcoming consultations to be no different.

“The private sector is the driving force in the economy, and we trust the government will listen to us as to how we can afford it.”

“The private sector as well, we are willing to consider anything so long as there are other measures put into place to ensure that businesses continue to be competitive enough.”

Any increases to the minimum wage are welcome, said Tupa’i. He and many of his hotelier peers already pay above the minimum, largely in an effort to retain good staff.

“Most of the people we talk with, especially smaller hoteliers try to retain the labour they get, so they put the training in, and they tend to bring their wages up quite quickly to try and retain the investment they put the training into.”

At his own hotel, Vaimoana Seaside Lodge in Savaii, Tupa’i starts his staff on $T2.30 for a month of training then moves them up to $2.50. 

As a member of the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and the National Tripartite Forum, Tupa’i will be gathering feedback from the members of S.H.A, to put a united position on all review matters to the Government. 

He said across the board, different levels of hoteliers will feel differently about any potential increases. Five star hotels obviously have different considerations to beach fale accommodation, Tupa’i said.

By Sapeer Mayron 19 January 2019, 12:00AM

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