22 Oct 2014

Low pay holding Fiji back as ethical garment-maker

1:10 pm on 22 October 2014

Fiji could fill a big gap in the market for ethically produced garments but low wages are holding it back.

That's according to a New Zealand-based charity aiming to educate workers in the Asia Pacific region about their rights.

The group UnionAid is running a pilot project in Fiji to help raise awareness of labour rights including pay entitlements among workers in garment factories.

An executive with UnionAid, Michael Naylor, says the big grievance is around the low minimum wage of two Fiji dollars an hour with some workers kept on lesser so-called learner wages for a year or more.

"Compared to some of the sweatshops of Asia, they wouldn't be particularly bad conditions, and it's actually something you would think the Fijian garment factories would want to, kind of, leverage. Rather than trying to be the lowest cost producer of garments they could market themselves as a good producer - I think there's a basis for doing that. If they paid more they could be the clean clothes garment producer of the South Pacific."

Mr Naylor says garment factory workers suffer a lot of financial stress having to work overtime to make ends meet.