The Atoa o Samoa Talks between Samoa and American Samoa will be held on 13/14 October.
Samoa will host the meetings which is a continuation of its initial talks held in July in the territory where Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa that it was more of a “meet and greet” given the
The Prime Minister told the Samoa media yesterday during a press conference the dates for the talks is set for 13 and 14th of October, 2022.
Fiame did not provide any details on the agenda of the bilateral meeting, but she did comment on the status of the request by American Samoa’s biggest employer, Star Kist Samoa on their request to hire 500 workers from Apia.
“While there are employment opportunities in American Samoa, it appears that our people need to look for a family to stay and these are issues that should be addressed.
“The safety of our people is paramount in our view and there should be a requirement for housing for our people before they commit to the cannery’s proposal,” said the Prime Minister.
Adding that Labour Mobility Program, which incorporates both NZ’s RSE (Recognized Seasonal Employer) Scheme, and Australia’s SWP (Seasonal Workers Program) and PLS (Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme) they provide housing for the workers and they are on contract.
However, that is not the case with canneries.
Last month Star Kist Samoa officials were in Apia to collaborate with the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labor on a process to hire workers from Samoa on a regular basis, under the guest workers permit.
Minister Leatinuu Wayne So’oialo told Samoa News there are similar programs in place such as the Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme in New Zealand and Seasonal Workers Program in Australia, but it’s quite different from American Samoa due to the requirements.
“For those hired to work in American Samoa, the candidates must have families in the territory to live with. Also, the significant difference is that for New Zealand and Australia they are hired on a contract basis, whereas for the US territory, once they are hired there is no timeframe, it could be one year up to ten years,” said Leatinu’u.
He said the cannery’s operation is year-round and they only take breaks during the holiday and considering the married men and women, they should be able to return home to be with their families.
“Otherwise, the workers need to take their families with them to live in American Samoa,” said the Minister.
The Minister said that Star-Kist officials are hoping to hire directly from the District Councils Committee initially set up as part of the $1 million tala District Developments offices.
However, Fiame said during the press conference in Apia, this avenue of hiring people directly from the District Councils Committee is not yet finalized.
“At the Cabinet is reviewing Samoa’s overall Labour Mobility Program, but it’s evident that more work needs to be done.
Therefore Cabinet has appointed sub-committees to address the issues cited in the review, including extramarital affairs, lack of employees in Apia and also the program was mainly for the unemployed but people resigned from their government and private work opting for higher salaries afforded by the RSE scheme.
She said Cabinet is reviewing the report and in the meantime, the relevant Ministry need to outline a solid foundation for this program to ensure all issues are addressed.
“There are a lot of loopholes in the current RSE program that needs to be addressed immediately.”
This includes whether village council will be used for the selection of the workers for this program.
According to Minister Leatinuu these issues were initially discussed with Star-Kist officials during the Atoa o Samoa talks between the two Governments held in July.
“We also offered them for a branch in Asau Savaii, there is a wharf for a factory on a small scale so our people can work here and stay in the Country,” asked Leatinuu.
“We also asked for a turnover where the guest workers can work and return home after a certain period of time, instead of the current situation where they only get a break during the holidays.”
Leatinuu said Star Kist officials are keener on hiring people directly from the Districts as there are concerns about tracking and tracing the workers.
“There are concerns that 90 per cent of the people incarcerated at the territorial facility are from Samoa and they are trying to pinpoint where these people are from,” said the Minister.
In the meantime, the Minister said the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labor is now working on a plan to accommodate the request from Star Kist.