29 Jul 2016

American Samoa may get its own labour department

3:26 pm on 29 July 2016

Concerns have been raised by American Samoan businesses about the enforcement of federal labour laws intended for large companies in the continental United States.

American Samoa tuna processing plant

American Samoa tuna processing plant Photo: RNZI Monica Miller

Several local companies and the territory's government have been forced to pay thousands of dollars in back wages and overtime to employees as the result of investigations by the US Department of Labor.

A former governor, Togiola Tulafono, has proposed establishing a local labour department to look after worker issues and rights.

The director of the department's wages and hour division in the Honolulu District, Terence Trotter, who now oversees American Samoa, supports the idea, and has offered to help.

"The law applies to businesses of a certain size, for example, $500,000 in gross sales a year - you are big enough for federal laws to apply," said Mr Trotter. "The federal minimum wage is going to apply to your workers.

"But there are many businesses out there, and especially in small island communities where the business is a small retail shop and maybe they don't do that level of gross sales - those workers, where do they go if they haven't been paid?"