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Survey shows ‘larger employers’ pay above minimum wage, says Chamber

Tuesday 12 March 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Economy, Local, National


Survey shows ‘larger employers’ pay above minimum wage, says Chamber
Eve Hayden of the Chamber of Commerce. 20123010

A Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce survey has shown that the majority of employers, particularly larger employers, pay their employees more than the national minimum wage.

The Cook Islands national minimum wage is being reviewed and the public has been welcomed to make their submissions by March 22.

The minimum wage was raised to $9 from $8.50 last year following a recommendation from the 2023 Minimum Wage Review Panel which also suggested an increase to $9.30 per hour in 2024.

Employer representative on the Minimum Wage Review Panel, Eve Hayden of the Chamber of Commerce says that in order to gauge and formulate a view of the minimum wage review each year, the Chamber surveys private sector employers.

Scheduled for release yesterday afternoon, the survey’s responses will be compiled into a report for the 2024 Minimum Rate of Pay Review Panel.

Hayden explained that the Cook Islands Workers Union representative undertakes a survey designed for workers views and brings this information to the table as well. 

“The Chamber’s survey responses in recent years have shown that the majority of employers, and particularly the larger employers pay a reasonable amount over the minimum wage, however there are some that use the rate change as a measure to adjust their own payroll,” she said.

“Without pre-empting responses from these surveys, or from the upcoming community consultations, I think it is safe to say that we can all appreciate not only the increases in the cost of living but also the costs of doing business which has been eroding margins since Covid-19.”

Hayden said the government payroll is acknowledged to be most affected by any increase, so this would have to be factored into their own budgets.

Last week the Cook Islands Fijian Association and the Filipino Community called for the national minimum wage to increase by at least a dollar per hour to match the increasing prices of goods and the skyrocketing rentals in Rarotonga.

The Fijian Association suggested the minimum wage to increase to $10 while the Filipino Community is recommending $12 per hour.

Hayden said many employers have experienced a loss of both local and expatriate employees to New Zealand and Australia, emphasising that wages need to be competitive to retain employees.

Also read: Public submissions open for national minimum wage review

> Expats seek minimum wage increase to match rising costs

“And it's vital to acknowledge that without a constant workforce, we would all suffer, businesses, government, and community alike,” she said.

“Therefore, while we are mindful that wages need to have a value that allows us to retain employees, it is also important that the minimum wage is not increased to the extent it may risk jobs if it is unaffordable for employers.”

However, she said a point to note for some of the expatriate workers is that payments of accommodation allowances are normally paid in addition to wages and therefore are not part of an “hourly rate”.

“So when you calculate the effective hourly rate this takes it higher, and this should be understood as an additional cost to the employer.”

The 2024 Minimum Rate of Pay Review Panel includes Ministry of Internal Affairs (INTAFF) Inspector Labour and Consumer, Maru Mariri-Tepou, Tristan Metcalfe, Director of Economic Planning – representative from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, Cook Islands Workers Association executive board member Helen Maunga and Simona Aumetua Nicholas, community representative.

Written submissions in Maori and English can be emailed or dropped off at the Ministry of Internal Affairs by 4pm, March 22, 2024. The Pa Enua residents can drop their submissions at the INTAFF office on their islands. Submissions can be emailed to Oral submissions are welcomed, with the closing date for all submissions also at 4pm, March 22.