8 Apr 2021

American Samoa cannery faces shortage of workers

5:20 pm on 8 April 2021

The American Samoa government is working with StarKist Samoa to ease the critical worker shortage at the cannery.

Starkist is the territory's largest private employer, and the worker shortage is impacting the company's ability to keep up with global demand.

Our correspondent said StarKist Samoa had faced a shortage of workers, especially fish cleaners since mid 2020, and it just got worse at the beginning of this year.

StarKist Samoa last week launched a new advertising campaign saying that its hiring fish cleaners and special skilled workers.

The advertisement also said in Samoan that if the person's Immigration ID had expired StarKist would work with the American Samoa Immigration Office on this issue.

StarKist Samoa compound in American Samoa

StarKist Samoa compound in American Samoa Photo: RNZ Pacific/Fili Sagapolutele

Responding to media questions via email, the spokesperson for the US-based StarKist Co, Michelle Faist, said the StarKist Samoa General Manager and the company's management team met with government officials last month.

"They were requesting the "government's help to improve their headcount so it can meet the global demand," she said.

She said StarKist proposed a local guest worker program, which is a current law, involving those already on island with problematic Immigration status that StarKist could assist, if the government allowed it.

Then last week, StarKist officials met with Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga and his team.

From that meeting, the territorial government gave StarKist options on how to move forward.

American Samoa's Lt Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga at the Pago Pago launch of Talofa Airways

Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga Photo: RNZI/Monica Miller

Faist said the government program the cannery is working to implement right now deals with foreign nationals with expired P5 type immigration ID.

After these individuals get their necessary police and hospital clearances, their cases will be reviewed by the American Samoa Immigration Board, and if approved for renewal, it would be on the condition that they work for StarKist Samoa.

Asked if this would resolve the company's labor shortage, Faist said, "It's hopeful that the program - and the number of individuals eligible under it - will improve its headcount."

Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga said last month that the local economy relies on StarKist Samoa and they need the workers to keep the plant operating.

"We support StarKist Samoa during this challenging time. We have the workers, and we need them to get back to work," he said.