23 Jun 2017

Official says American Samoa cannot afford wage hike

3:53 pm on 23 June 2017

American Samoa's Commerce Department director, Keniseli Lafaele, says another federally mandated minimum wage hike would be the final nail in the coffin for the economy.

This week American Samoa's US Congresswoman Aumua Amata introduced federal legislation to restore the system in place prior to 2007, when minimum wages were set by a Special Industry Committee, appointed by the US Secretary of Labor.

Speaking about this move, Mr Lafaele said this was one issue that territorial government leaders and the Congresswoman agree on - no automatic increase in the minimum wage without careful review of the local economy.

He said the American Samoa economy was extremely vulnerable to an increase in the minimum wage now, given one of the two tuna canneries closed its doors last December.

Mr Lafaele said the local fishing industry had also lost significant fishing grounds to marine monuments and sanctuaries, faces federal restrictions on high seas fishing and the use of fishing aggregating devices, higher operating costs, and competitors benefitting from subsidies.