Friday, January 31, 2014

shameful minimum wage in Fiji

from w
The difference between rich and poor in Fiji is so obvious when some wages are so very liow - $2F an hour for people who work just as hard as executives and certainly as some of the bosses who swan around enjoying hospitality, status, and fine travel.  It's really shameful.  Do visiting tourists who might pay up to $500 a night or more at a resort know what the hospitality workers get for cleaning their rooms and so on?   But the workers still smile for the visitors. Isa.
  • Over 60 per cent of Fijian wage earners live below the poverty line while the cost of living is skyrocketing
  • Hotel workers earn less than $3 an hour
  • Most wages are up to 15 to 30 per cent below the poverty line
A letter to the Editor and a piece from Fiji Village:

Letters to the Editor:
Wage rate
Taking into account the current cost of living standards, the NMW rate of $2 recently announced is rather insufficient and ludicrous indeed.
I am quite puzzled as to how one would survive with $2 an hour.
Let's do the math; if a sole breadwinner with a family of four sweats it out for say 45 hours a week, he will earn a ball park figure of $80 after deductions.
Average basic grocery shopping costs for a family of four roughly amounts to $100 to $150.
Subsequently other expenses would linger as well, such utility bills, rent etc. Would $80 a week cover it?
How would this individual cater for other unforeseen expenses such as a medical emergency in the family when he has already spent his $80 on groceries and bills? Rob a bank? Resort to begging and other unlawful activities just to get by?
Mr Usamate, would you ply your trade for $2 an hour? Why don't you humbly accept the challenge and witness first-hand the hardships some people endure earning less than $3 an hour in today's brutal economy?
If not, may I then kindly suggest for you to seriously re-look and reconsider your stance on the above?
Elections are just a tick away; please utilise this opportunity to win the confidence of the common people.
Nishant Singh
Minimum wage rate derived after careful consideration - Usamate
Publish date/time: 01/02/2014 [08:04]
The minimum wage rate at $2 per hour has been derived after very careful consideration and in the interest of the workers and the small and medium businesses.

This is according to the Minister for Labor Jone Usamate who announced yesterday that cabinet has approved the minimum wage rate to be set at $2 per hour.

Usamate said the national minimum wage rate will cover both formal and informal sectors and that a large number of workers in the informal sector will significantly gain from the minimum wage rate of $2 per hour or weekly wage of at least $90.

Usamate added that although the individual income is still lower than the $186 Basic Need Poverty Line income for a four member family, there are several established poverty alleviation measures set up by the government that they can access.

However, the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions and Fiji Trade Union Congress has condemned the government decision to set the minimum wage rate at $2 per hour.

FICTU General Secretary Attar Singh said this has driven the lowest paid workers to permanent poverty.

He added that such rates when once fixed are difficult to adjust upwards.

FTUC National Secretary Felix Anthony said this has deprived workers and their families of a decent living.

He has called on the government to review the decision without delay.

However, Usamate said this will be reviewed within a year.

Anthony said the workers will have their say on this matter soon.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Holidays in Australia

from w
We said farewell to more family members yesterday on their way to Tonga. Here's a picture of our mob in the driveway of our home in Newcomb, Geelong.

Shipping containers for a school, now that's a bit drastic

friom w
This really does sound appalling. Children need fresh air and decent spaces for their classes. Shipping containers do not sound suitable.  Why can't they use verandahs, sit out under a tree in good weather, use the hall of a nearby church?  Church buildings can be multi-purpose. There are plenty of them. Anyway, over $7000 F sounds  a lot for a container which should be given away for free to a school. Will the new classrooms be air-conditioned?  How hot will they be?  A cooking class in one, a welding class in another - what about safety issues?

Lessons in a box

Mere Naleba
Thursday, January 23, 2014
SINCE its inception in 2008, Basden College located in Nasinu will soon be opening its door to Year 13 (Form 7) students.
One thing that sets this secondary school apart from all the other secondary schools in the country is that its Year 13 classrooms are built from shipping containers.
Principal of the school Mika Mudreilagi said the school management purchased six containers which would be converted to house the school's first ever Year 13 level, first home economics room, a mini staff room, storage room and a welding port.
Mr Mudreilagi said the school's contractor, Hope Fiji Construction Company, had come up with the plan to convert shipping containers to classrooms which worked well to their advantage, as they were late in trying to construct a Year 13 building.
"We wanted to start Form Seven this year, in accordance to the plans of the Ministry of Education to have a Form Seven level last year," Mr Mudreilagi said.
"In fact using containers as classrooms is cost effective, affordable and innovative.
"In overseas countries, container architecture is also known as green construction, as we do not use timber therefore decreasing the pressure on cutting trees to meet the demand for timber.
"The key to this green construction is the recycling concept."
Mr Mudreilagi said with Year 13 expected to begin in the third week of school, so far about 10 students had shown interest in becoming pioneers of the class at the school.
Hope Fiji's managing director Wade Evans said two 12-metre long containers would be combined and converted into three buildings.
"The container classrooms can cater for 35 students," he said.
"The advantages of having these types of buildings are that they are cyclone proof and very cheap and affordable".

College use containers to house Form Seven

Basden College teachers, (from left) Miriama Bulivakarua, Repeka Qali and Judy Nucagilevu at the construction of Form Seven classroom in a shipping containers at the school yesterday. Photo: RONALD KUMAR.
Basden College teachers, (from left) Miriama Bulivakarua, Repeka Qali and Judy Nucagilevu at the construction of Form Seven classroom in a shipping containers at the school yesterday. Photo: RONALD KUMAR.
Form Seven students of Basden College in Newtown, Nasinu will attend classes in a converted shipping containers this year.
School principal Mika Mudreilagi said they were looking for the most cost-effective construction methods and bought each container at $7700.
The Minister for Education Filipe Bole said the school’s option was feasible.
“However I still need to see the complete fabrication of the classroom before other schools can use the idea,” Mr Bole said.
“But the project is feasible as it is cost effective whereby a container classroom would cost about $25,000 whereas normal classrooms out of wood and bricks can cost about $50,000.”
Mr Mudreilagi said: “The six containers would be converted and made into three classrooms which would be ready within two weeks.” He said the reason why they chose container classrooms was to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Education to have Form Seven and Technical Vocational Education and Training.
“We will have a classroom for Form Seven students, and for the first time we will have Home Economics and Applied Technology taught in our school,” he said.
“The new container classroom can accommodate about 35 students and it will be the ultimate recycling project converting containers into new modern bright and airy classrooms.”
He said the containers were strong because they were designed to carry all kinds of cargo.
They would have proper windows, doors, a roof and double walls to protect students and teachers from sunlight.
“The new classrooms will be admired by everyone and it will be really enjoyed by the students and their teachers.”
Mr Mudreilagi said the new facility would certainly enhance the learning environment.
Mr Bole said the option was open and they would comment further on it after he saw the completed project.
Posted by  on January 22, 2014. Filed under Fiji News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Monday, January 13, 2014

After cyclone Ian goes through Tonga

from w
Obsessed with local news in Australia we barely get any news of the devastating effects of Cyclone Ian in Tonga although apparently it was one of the worst cyclones.  Haapai islands north of Nukualofa seemed to have received the most damage.  We were in Tonga several months ago and really feel sorry for the people there who are hard-working people.
From Fiji Sun:

Cyclone Ian batters Tonga

Soldiers load emergency supplies on the His Majesty’s Vessel Savea at the Masefield Naval Base in Touliki. The supplies are being taken to Ha’apai. Photo: TONGA DAILY NEWS
There have been no reports of Fijian casualties after Cyclone Ian battered the northern part of Tonga.
The cyclone, downgraded from Category Five to Four, is currently moving away from Tonga.
Meanwhile, there has been conflicting reports by Radio Australia and Tonga Daily News on casualities.
Reports on Radio Australia said “Officials in Tonga have confirmed the first death from severe tropical Cyclone Ian as reports come in of widespread destruction on islands to the north.”
While the Tonga Daily News said there had been no causality.
The full extent of damage from the cyclone is still unclear
Radio Australia reports “Emergency officials say they are receiving reports up to 70 per cent of the houses on some of the smaller islands to the north have been destroyed or damaged.”
Tonga’s director of emergencies, Leveni Aho, has told the ABC he had serious concerns for those in the islands of the Ha’apai group where communications had been cut off.
“The picture comes to hand now, it was really bad,” he said.
“I think it was 70 per cent of the housing of the two islands that we have access to now have been affected – destroyed or partially damaged.
“We have got some people sheltered in some of the evacuation centres, buildings and some of the churches.”
Mr Aho said there was still no communication with 80 per cent of the Ha’apai group of islands, including Lifuka, which bore the brunt of the storm.
Meanwhile a naval vessel ‘Savea’ left Nuku’alofa yesterday morning with a government team, led by Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu, for the Ha’apai Group.
The team including soldiers and officials of various government departments and non -governmental organisations including the Red Cross, left with emergency supplies including tents to provide assistance to people in Ha’apai.
Meanwhile, flights both domestically and intermational are expected to resume today.
Real Tonga suspended all flights because of the cyclone while Fiji Airways called off its Nadi to Tonga flight on Saturday night.
Meanwhile an update from the Fiji Meteorological Service yesterday morning, said the storm was located about 200 kilometres east-southeast of Nuku’alofa and was moving south-southeast at 20 kilometres per hour.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cyclone Ian and Tonga

from w
It all depends on your point of view.  A cyclone warning east of Fiji doesn't send shivers down your spine if you live in Nadi or Lautoka, but it's different if you live in Vava'u in Tonga. And as Peceli and I have spent a holiday in Tonga last year we now realise how significant such a cyclone can be to small islands and the food gardens of the ordinary people in Tonga. Vava'u might have some hills but most islands are quite flat and a sea surge is dangerous.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Ian now Category 5, approaching Tongan islands

Updated 1 hour 42 minutes ago
Severe Tropical Cyclone Ian travelling through Tonga
Tonga's northern island groups of Vava'u and Ha'apai are preparing for the arrival of hurricane-force winds with disaster agencies on standby for a response to Severe Tropical Cyclone Ian.
According to the most recent update from the Fiji Meteorological Service, released at 5:00am local time (4:00am AEDT), Ian was located about 75 kilometres west of Vava'u and 140 kilometres north-northwest of Ha'apai.
It says the cyclone is currently moving south-southeast at 14 kilometres an hour.
Winds at the storm's centre are estimated to be averaging just over 200 kilometres an hour, with gusts of up to 290 kilometres an hour.
On its forecast track, Ian is expected to be about 140 kilometres south-southwest of Vava'u and about 18 kilometres southeast of Ha'apai at 0400 Saturday UTC time (5pm Saturday Tonga local time/3pm Saturday AEST).
Sanjay Prakash from the Fiji Meteorological Service told Australia Network the cyclone intensified.
"It has not changed its course, it is heading towards the Vava'u group in the northern part of Tonga," he said.
Mr Prakash says Ian is expected to hit Vava'u at around 9am local time Saturday (2000 Friday UTC/7am AEST).
He says Cyclone Ian will still be at least a Category 4, but possibly still a Category 5 system, when it reaches Vava'u.
"Once it heads towards Vava'u it will be maintaining possibly a southeast track, and accelerate," he said.
"Possibly the speed will increase and it is expected to move away from the Tongan group from eleven - midnight or eleven."
Very destructive hurricane-force winds from the storm are beginning to impact the islands.
Hotel manager, Kjell Stave, is bunkered down with his wife, child and six guests on Vava'u.
He's told Radio Australia they can already feel the force of the storm.
"The wind must be up to between 40 and 50 knots now," he said.
"But it's just the start of it I'm afraid.
Mr Stave says his power has gone out.
"I can see some boats fetching and rolling about here," he said.
"It's starting to build up some chop in the bay, we are fine, but we will have to see now."

Target of the storm

Fiji-based climate analyst Neville Koop says the Vava'u group of islands are at greatest risk.
"It is moving south east on a path that will take the centre of the cyclone very close to Vava'u in the early hours of tomorrow morning," he said.
"This is certainly capable of doing enormous levels of destruction and we hope that people there are secure because this is the sort of cyclone that could also lead to loss of life."
The capital, Nuku'alofa, is not directly in Ian's path but will experience damaging gale-force winds, heavy rains and sea flooding of low-lying areas.
The director of Tonga's National Emergency Management Office, Leveni Aho, says residents should prepare for the worst.
Mr Aho is urging affected residents to make sure they are well prepared.
"A reminder to people to make sure that they have enough supplies for the next 72 hours in terms of water, drinking water, and food and (ensure) some basic necessities like radios and mobile phones are charged to maintain communication," he said.
"Make sure that they are in a safe place if ever the winds arrive, keeping away from low-lying areas and the coastal areas, make sure that they are in a safe house, sheltered."

Disaster agencies on alert

The Pacific office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says Tonga's National Emergency Operations Committee met Thursday to discuss preparedness activities.
The Tongan Red Cross Society has emergency response teams on standby and can access pre-positioned non-food items across five islands.
The New Zealand government has additional personnel at the High Commission to support assessment and response planning.
Military assets are also available for reconnaissance and logistical support if required.
The UN says many people are boarding up windows and have cut leaves from fruit-bearing trees to reduce crop damage.
People in Vava'u have been preparing for the cyclone since yesterday afternoon.
The island group has a population of between 10 to 12,000 people.
Many of them live in small shelters set-up after the last major cyclone tore through the region, and there are grave fears many of these homes will be ripped apart by Ian.

Labasa town and flooding

from w
There are great plans for a women's cultural centre for Labasa and that's great.  However I wonder if the site is really okay because of the potential  for flooding in Labasa town when the river rises, as it does, often. Maybe it will be double storey so that downstairs only cars can get wet!

Land found for North women centre

A piece of land near the Labasa River-end of town has been earmarked for the first multicultural centre aimed at assisting women of Macuata province in improving their livelihoods will soon materialise.
The $35,000 bilateral project by the Ministry of Women and the Labasa Town Council will boost women’s economic activities in Labasa. The special administrator of Labasa / Savusavu, Vijay Chand, said the Government was funding the project.

The centre has an open space with an inside kitchen sink, plumbing, electrical and an ablution block.
“The centre will help the rural women who come from far to sell their crafts. It will also be an affordable temporary accommodation for travellers and for training younger rural women.”

“It will also strengthen cultural traditions and improve the standard of living for local women through self-employment.
“The proposed centre can be used as an information centre and it will also empower women to be more independent. The project is expected to be completed in June,” Mr Chand said.

A lot of packets of kava

from w

Kava run lands NSW man in trouble

Kava haul
The kava haul. Picture: NT POLICE Source: Supplied
POLICE have arrested a NSW man over a large seizure of kava.
The 37-year-old man was stopped by police driving a Toyota 4-Runner 4WD near the community of Maranboy, about 310km southeast of Darwin.
He is alleged to have been carrying 294kg of kava.
Police said the haul had a street value of approximately $552,530.
Kava is a psychoactive drug that is derived from the root of a plant.
It is usually prepared by chewing, grinding or pounding the roots of the kava plant into a powder and then consumed as a drink or in pill form.
Another version of the story:

Northern Territory Police,
Fire and Emergency Services

Dog Operations Sniff-Out Kava Haul

Friday 04-Jan-2013 14:40
Members from the Dog Operations Unit and the Remote Community Drug Desk have seized six 'Christmas boxes' containing sixty Kilograms of kava. A further one and a half kilograms was found in an express pack.
The find was part of an on-going operation with the cooperation of Australia Post at mail centres in Darwin.  Deliveries to a number of remote communities are screened to control the use of the mail system to transport illicit drugs and kava.
The kava was divided into individual deal-sized bags in preparation for sale in Arnhem Land communities. The estimated value of the seizure is $61, 500.
”While there are differing laws about kava's use and possession interstate, put simply, it is illegal to supply and possess kava in the Northern Territory. We will continue to target suppliers, particularly those interstate who flaunt the laws and are profiteering off a small number of communities in the Northern Territory." Detective Superintendent Tony Fuller said.