17 May 2010

American Samoa to approach US Congress over cannery job losses

10:03 am on 17 May 2010

The American Samoa Governor, Togiola Tulafono, says he will be requesting the US congress for assistance to help workers, who will lose their jobs at the territory's biggest private employer, StarKist Samoa.

Last week the cannery announced that it would be shedding up to 800 employees over the next six months.

Saying that it was an act of Congress that led to the cutbacks, the governor said he will ask Washington for direct payments for affected workers.

A federal wage law passed in 2009 requires American Samoa to increase the local minimum wage by 50 cents each year, until the federal wage of US$7.25 per hour is reached.

The cannery minimum wage is now $4.76 an hour.

Togiola says he will also ask Congress to pay the differential in what wages should have been if the federal wage law had not been approved and what they are now.

The governor says if Congress doesn't approve these requests he will ask the federal government for increased funding for On the Job Training that would enable the local government to contribute 50 percent of the wages of cannery employees for an initial training period.