ASG employees stranded overseas to receive regular paychecks
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In a June 23rd general memorandum Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga established an executive branch policy “to respond to the needs of affected government employees stranded off-island” since local borders were shut down since late March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In fairness to these government employees, it is deemed necessary to establish a policy to address the needs of these government employees and their income status,” said the governor, who pointed out that some ASG workers have been stuck in Hawaii and other US states due to border closure.
“Through no fault of their own, their income capacity has been eroded as their annual and sick leave accumulation was depleted as a result of their unanticipated absence from work,” the governor said in the memo to cabinet members.
He points out that these employees were on official government business and others on personal matters, when borders were closed to preempt the entry of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
EMPLOYEES ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS
“Unaware of the actions being taken to address the absence of your respective employees,” Lolo informed directors that, it’s the “government’s Standard Policy that the employee is deemed to be on active duty during their respective absence. Thus, their annual leave will not be utilized.”
However, if the employee elects to take annual leave after the period of official business, it will be applied to the elected period, according to the governor, who noted that in the event medical treatment is sought, sick leave will be used.
For the duration of the COVID-19 declaration, “this class of employee will not be charged his/her annual or sick leave for this absence,” he explained.
EMPLOYEE ON PERSONAL BUSINESS
Government employees stuck off island from Mar. 18th to the end of the COVID-19 declaration “will not have their annual leave charged,” Lolo explained. He said these employees will have their annual or sick leave restored covering the period starting on Mar. 18th to whatever time the coronavirus declaration is in place.
“While these policies have been established for the general government,” the governor said he hopes that ASG semi-autonomous agencies, the Fono and the Judicial Branch “will adopt them as the absence was not of their choice, but brought to bear on them given the closure of our borders.”
According to the governor, the ASG Human Resources director will work with executive branch directors to ensure that these policies are equitability applies through the government.
“For those employees whose checks were reduced due to the absence of annual or sick leave,” Lolo ordered that, “these employees should be reimbursed for the amount cut from their regular paycheck.”
Furthermore, ASG-DHR will also account for all the hours and amount paid to these employees who are stranded off-island by employee and agency name.
Copies of the governor’s memo were also sent to the High Court and Fono leaders.
AT THE CABINET MEETING
The governor spoke briefly about ASG employees stranded off island at Monday’s cabinet meeting saying that directors have reduced hours. He ordered that the pay of these workers be restored. He said it’s not the fault of these workers they are stranded in Hawaii or in the US mainland.
The governor also informed directors that all employees who are 60-years and older are no longer allowed to work from home, under the latest directive and they are all supposed to be working from their respective offices, based on the staggered staffing formula set by the director.
The governor’s chief of staff, Fiu J. Saelua added that the governor’s office has been getting calls from workers who claim that their departments and agencies are all working the full-five days a week and not the 50%/50% staggering staffing format, cited in the latest COVID-19 declaration.
Fiu called on directors to comply with this current provision of the declaration.