22 Feb 2008

Minimum wage hearing in American Samoa

4:23 pm on 22 February 2008

A public hearing in American Samoa will hear some of the first public expressions of support for the continuation of statutory increases to the minimum wage.

A secondary school teacher, Peni Teo, is one of those planning to tell the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs that continuing increases to the minimum wage, as required under a controversial federal law, is in the best interest of American Samoa.

Mr Teo says politicians and business leaders are placing too much emphasis on the interests of the tuna canneries - which he says mainly employ people from independent Samoa.

"You're looking at eighty, eighty five percent of the labour force or employees at the canneries are from Samoa and part of what I'm arguing for is that not only that labour force belongs to Western Samoa, those folks are now living here depleting land resources for families are well as government resources that really belong to the people of American Samoa."

Mr Teo says the first 50-ent increase to the minimum wage provided a much needed boost to the territory's low paid workers and that the about 20 percent of American Samoans currently earning the minimum wage deserve another increase, as scheduled under the law, this May.

He says it's not a question of, if, the canneries will close but when.