$3 minimum wage proposal outdated

The Samoa First Union (S.F.U.) has applauded the International Monetary Fund's (I.M.F.) call to increase the minimum wage. 

However, their $3 proposal is outdated, says S.F.U. Membership Secretary, Saina Tomi.

“The Samoa First Union had already made a submission to the Samoa Government’s minimum wage review saying that the current minimum wage of T$2.30 should be more than doubled to T$5 per hour,” she said. 

Last month the I.M.F. called on the Samoa Government to consider increasing the country's minimum wage to $3 tala per hour. 

The I.M.F. report stated that Samoa has the lowest minimum wage among Pacific Island countries and it was time to increase it due to high levels of unemployment and large number of informal workers in the country. 

Established in mid-2015, the S.F.U. represents more than 1,000 workers in Samoa.

“When Samoa First Union was established most of those workers joining complained of the low minimum wage of Tala 2.30. 

“We immediately campaigned for an increase in the minimum wage to T$3.00 and this became an issue in the 2016 general election with a number of candidates supporting our position.

“However it is now four and a half years since the current minimum wage was established and the minimum wage has not been increased since then. 

Last year, at the request of their membership, S.F.u. raised its call for the minimum wage to T$5.

“The union’s submission notes the findings of the 2013-2014 Samoa Hardship and Poverty Report and the buying power of wages have reduced even more since that report.  

"many employers are already paying above the current minimum wage but many others are exploiting workers by only paying the minimum wage, even to employees of many years of service."

In April 2019, the S.F.U. submitted an information paper to Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour for their incorporation into the Technical Assistant regarding the current review of the minimum wage for Samoa.

The S.F.U. pointed out their key submission is that the current minimum wage is totally inadequate and must be immediately and substantially increased, "in our view to WST 5.00 per hour (from its current rate of T$2.30 per hour)".

They also took issue with the National provident Fund's (N.P.F.) contribution going up 1 percent a year over the next three years.

"The pay packets of Samoan workers (including those on the minimum wage) will be reduced accordingly.

“Samoa First Union has opposed such a cut in wages through the increase to the N.P.F., but if this is happening then the Minimum Wage must be increased by a further 3 percent to compensate. And on top of this increase it has also been announced that water will increase by 50 percent (27 sene per unit) on 1 July 2019.”

Furthermore, the S.F.U. said there is no argument that a significant increase in the minimum wage will have a negative effect on employers in Samoa.  

“The figures show that employers in Samoa can afford to pay much more than the current minimum wage and many do. 

“If there are some complaining that they can’t afford to pay an increase in the minimum wage it means that either their business model is flawed or they are happy to exploit the Samoan workforce.” 

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