11 Oct 2022

Samoa reviews overseas employer schemes

10:31 am on 11 October 2022
Samoa RSE workers

Samoa RSE workers Photo: RNZI/Tipi Autagavaia Tipi

Samoa's Minister for Police and Prisons has raised concerns over the loss of police officers to New Zealand's Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers scheme.

Faualo Harry Schuster told Talamua online it is an issue that needs to be addressed because it is not just his ministry that is losing skilled staff, but other fields as well.

He could not give an exact number of police officers who left the force for work under the scheme overseas.

The same concern was raised by local businesses which have lost skilled manpower to the seasonal workers' scheme and are facing difficulty in finding local workers.

Concerns about the overseas programmes have prompted the Samoan government to engage in a review.

Samoa's Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa at an address to horticulture industry leaders in Hawke's Bay on 16 June 2022.

Samoa's Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa addressed horticulture industry leaders in Hawke's Bay in June this year Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The programme incorporates New Zealand's Recognized Seasonal Employer Scheme, and Australia's Seasonal Workers Program under the Labour Mobility Scheme.

Problems, such as Samoan workers having extramarital affairs (some of which have resulted in pregnancies) and misuse of alcohol by workers have arisen on overseas worksites.

The programme has also had the unintended side effect of creating a drain on the local Samoan labour pool. While intended for unemployed people, school leavers and people from rural areas, the higher salaries offered for seasonal work have led local employees (including government employees) to desert their jobs.

Samoa's prime minister said the subcommittee is to continue its review and advise Cabinet accordingly of an appropriate decision to satisfy all sides involved, and how the workers should be selected to avoid the concern of the Government and business sector of losing employees.

StarKist Samoa compound in American Samoa

StarKist Samoa Photo: RNZ Pacific/Fili Sagapolutele

Fiame Naomi Mata'afa said while there is significant demand for RSE workers from New Zealand and Australia, the local employment issues arising from the programme will take priority in being addressed.

In neighbouring American Samoa, StarKist Samoa, Pago Pago's cannery has sought additional workers from Samoa. However, Fiame said that any Samoan workers who would work there must have their essential needs met:

"While there are opportunities for work in American Samoa, it appears that our people need to look for a family to stay and these are issues that should be addressed; the safety of our people is paramount in our view and there should be a requirement for housing for our people before they commit to the cannery's proposal," Fiame said.

Last month, the New Zealand government announced that an extra 3000 RSE scheme seasonal workers will be able to be brought in as relief for the horticultural sector, bringing the total to 19,000 workers.

- RNZ Pacific/Talamua online

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