It's confirmed: StarKist will shut down for 5 weeks beginning in Oct.

fili@samoanews.com
Announcement spells heartache for employees, hard times for the economy

StarKist Co., has confirmed that its cannery operations in American Samoa will shut down for at least five weeks, beginning in the later part of next month.

Samoa News received reports late last month from industry sources and some cannery workers that the StarKist Samoa plant will shut down soon for a long period of time, but there was no firm date, and the shutdown is due to a project the company is working on.

A couple of cannery workers said they were told early this month that the shutdown would last four to five weeks, starting sometime next month.

StarKist Samoa, in a brief statement released yesterday afternoon through StarKist Co., officially confirmed that it will shut down operations from Saturday, Oct. 21st until Sunday, Nov. 26th. The StarKist Samoa plant is expected to re-open Monday, Nov. 27th.

“The StarKist Samoa plant will temporarily shut down manufacturing for facility upgrades and to install new equipment, which will increase efficiencies at the plant,” said StarKist Co., corporate spokesperson Michelle Faist.

“We recognize this shut down is a disruption not only to our workers, but also to the community and our business partners and we appreciate their understanding during this time,” she said, adding that the StarKist Samoa management team has communicated the temporary closure to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga.

“We appreciate the Governor and his team for their ongoing support” said StarKist Samoa.

The Governor’s Office confirmed yesterday that Lolo has been made aware of the situation, and the governor is taking steps to ease the financial burden on the economy attributed to the shutdown. For example, a letter is to go out soon to directors “to be mindful in their spending due to loss of revenues”. Other measures will be considered when the governor meets with the relevant directors.

In his July cover letter  that included the proposed fiscal year 2018 budget, Lolo informed Fono leaders that it’s “important to remember and to take note that the forecast revenues for fiscal year 2018 are predicted on the continued maintenance of StarKist’s current production and employment level.”

“If any of these two elements change downward, projected revenues will plummet reciprocally,” he said, adding that the same holds true of the Administration’s proposed revenue measures already transmitted to the Fono.

It remains unclear at this point, how much impact the five-week StarKist shutdown will have on ASG’s projected revenues.

Last month, StarKist Samoa production shut down for one-week due to fish supply shortages. 

This time, the more extensive shutdown comes amid the looming holidays, towards the end of the year, with several revenue measures pending in the Fono including a proposal to establish a new 7% sales tax for retail goods.

Samoa News notes that anytime there is a shutdown at the cannery — which employs some 2,000 workers — it not only has a major effect on its workforce, but also companies providing support services.  And the shutdown for such a long period of time, means no weekly paychecks for the majority of cannery workers.

Two local businesses contacted by Samoa News for comments about the upcoming cannery shutdown said this is going to put a big dent on the local economy, as far as consumer purchasing power, as cannery workers will be without a paycheck for over a month.

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