COVID19 and the World of Work

Bipartite Initiative to Support Redundant Workers in Micro Businesses

The Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC )and the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF) lead the implementation of a COVID19 recovery initiative called Transition to Business (T2B).

News | 30 June 2020
FTUC,FCEC and ILO staff at the MOA signing event.
The ILO facilitated the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the Fiji Trades Union Congress-FTUC and  the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF) that will see both social partners lead the implementation of a COVID19 recovery initiative called Transition to Business (T2B).

The preliminary findings of the recently concluded national Tripartite-ILO Rapid Assessment on the impact of COVID19 on employment and business has provided the impetus to the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) and the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF) to collaborate on an initiative to support employment of redundant workers and increase private sector activities.

The immediate objective of the Transition to Business (T2B) initiative is to target redundant formal sector workers who have started potentially scalable businesses and build their capacities to sustain their micro businesses and income for their families. The medium to long term objective is for the targeted businesses to potentially employ more redundant workers and through the private sector, contribute to economic recovery.

Through the in-crisis rapid assessment, FTUC found that currently 50% of their surveyed members were redundant and of these 46% had ventured into self-employment. This included farming, fishing, sewing, baking and other micro businesses and as this was their first time in businesses, needed support to sustain their new jobs. “Although they have lost formal waged jobs, they have engaged in self-employment and micro business ventures and this initiative will ensure we provide the support our members need to continue to earn income for themselves and their families”, said Mr Felix Anthony, the National Secretary for the FTUC. Mr Anthony added that this will ultimately contribute to improving local economic activity and also potentially create more employment opportunities for other redundant union members.

The specific services the T2B initiative will provide are (a) business training, (b) business advisory services and (c) business mentoring.

“At FCEF we have developed a wealth of in-house experience and expertise in supporting micro businesses and can contribute very effectively to this initiative with good outcomes”, said Mr Sandeep Chauhan, the President of FCEF. “We have and can draw from our accelerator programme called the Fiji Enterprise Engine (FEE), our business advisory services through Business Link Pacific (BLP) and peer mentoring from our Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC) and Women Entrepreneurs & Business Council (WEBC)”, he further added.

The T2B initiative was conceived through a bipartite meeting on 19th June 2020, facilitated by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The meeting looked at developing recommendations for COVID19 recovery policies based on the findings of the rapid assessment, where FCEF and FTUC agreed to explore avenues to further the prospect of collaboration regarding transformation from waged employment to entrepreneurship. “I congratulate FCEF and FTUC on starting this great recovery initiative. Not only is it targeted to those that need the support immediately, it draws on their respective organisation expertise and is informed by their results of the rapid assessment”, said Mr Matin Karimli, the ILO Director for Pacific Island Countries. He further added that the ILO was very pleased to technically support the T2B initiative, as it was aligned to the four pillars of the ILO Policy Framework for COVID19 and can be potentially replicated with our social partners in other Pacific countries.

A joint FCEF-FTUC Project Steering committee will be established to finalise the operational arrangements, identify beneficiaries and roll out the activities. It is envisaged that the intent and results of this initiative will form a model for effective COVID19 recovery investment by government and donor agencies.