Govt. urged to raise minimum wage to $5

The Government has been urged to raise the minimum wage to $5 tala.

The call comes from the Samoa First Union, which initially started the campaign several years ago calling for an increase from $2.30 to $3 tala.

But Senior Organizer for Samoa First Union, Saina Tomi Fetalaia, said the minimum wage as it stands today does not cater for the needs of people who are increasingly struggling with the cost of living.

“The time has passed for $3 tala, we must pursue to have our minimum wage increased to $5tala,” said Saina.

“The last minimum wage increase was in 2012, that was seven years ago. And in any country in the world the minimum wage does not stay the same, it increases on an annual basis.”

Saina pointed to New Zealand and Australia for instance.

“In New Zealand and Australia, every year there is a raise in the minimum wage,” she said.

“When Samoan First Union launched its campaign to increase the minimum wage in 2015, we asked for $3 tala; however that was three years ago and the longer the minimum wage sits there without an increase, should call for much bigger increase such as $5 tala.”

It was not possible to get a comment from the Government yesterday.

But during a recent interview, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said an increased is totally dependent on whether the private sector can 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. Then all we will get is looking at a bunch of numbers while there are no jobs.”

Tuilaepa said that his administration is acutely aware about the calls to increase the minimum wage.

“There is a lot more to this than meets the eye. Any raise in the minimum wage is dependent on private sector’s ability to absorb it among other related issues.

“In making such a recommendation, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labor (M.C.I.L.) take into account what government can afford, and especially the private sector.

“M.C.I.L. also have to consider variables like inflation rates and its effect on disposable incomes. The key word here is affordability.”

But Samoa First Union and Saina said where there is a will there is a way.

“An increase in the minimum wage would generate more disposable income,” she said.

“It is unfortunate that the Government appears to focus primarily from the employers' perspective, namely the private sector, they state that 'the key word here is affordability’.

“More disposable income means people would then spend their income on goods and services, generating more economic activity.

“Businesses would therefore also increase their income. It would be a win-win situation for both our employers and employees. That is how businesses benefit instead of looking at the short term effect of ‘affordability’.”

The “trickle-down theory” doesn’t work, added Saina, who said the Government should focus on the ripple effects of increasing the minimum wage.  

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