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Both canneries shutting down — one for three weeks, the other indefinitely

StarKist Samoa’s last day of production for 2016 is today — it will resume in three weeks time. However, today is a sad day for some 700 employees of Samoa Tuna Processors Inc. — the cannery is closing down its canning operation indefinitely.

The three-week down time for StarKist Samoa and the indefinite closure of Samoa Tuna Processors will immediately impact businesses — such as the stores around the canneries and bus transportation.

StarKist Co. confirmed last month that instead of their usual two-week shutdown at the end of the year, StarKist Samoa would close production for three weeks, including the first week of January 2017.

Samoa News learned early this week that the last day of production for StarKist Samoa is today and this was confirmed by StarKist corporate spokesperson Michelle Faist, who added that Jan. 9 is the first day of production in the New Year 2017.

“We typically have our standard two-week closure in December, but made the difficult decision to remain closed the first week of January,” Faist said yesterday. “StarKist Samoa continues to experience volatility in its plant operations, and much of the strain is due to limited space. The lack of space is having a negative impact on our business and our workers.”

Commerce Department Director Keniseli Lafaele had told Samoa News that ASG is working to identify a parcel of land for StarKist Samoa’s freezer space.

In the past years, the canneries have had problems with cannery workers not returning in a timely manner after the end of the year shut down, as many cannery workers weren’t able to return to the territory from Samoa, where they spend the holidays with family. There were even times when production was not in full swing at the start of the year.

“We do not anticipate any issues with employees returning to work in January,” was Faist’s response when asked how the company would ensure many of the employees would return on time when production resumes.

And in past years, the canneries would issues notices to radio stations to remind employees in advance of when production is to resume.

Asked about the holiday gift package to be handed out to StarKist Samoa’s workforce, Faist said, “Employees receive a Holiday gift from StarKist to show our appreciation for their hard work and dedication during the year.”

While she didn’t elaborate on the details of the gift package, which Samoa News understands includes two small cases of wahoo, Faist did say, “We would like to wish everyone in American Samoa a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Manuia le Kerisimasi ma le Tausaga Fou!”

Also shutting down production for the same three weeks is Talofa Systems Inc., the can manufacturing plant, which has a workforce of about 200 and produces cans for StarKist Samoa, which has a workforce of just over 2,000.  Both companies are owned by South Korean based Dongwon Industries.

At Samoa Tuna Processors, Tri Marine International Chief Operating Officer, Joe Hamby reconfirmed yesterday morning that STP’s canning operation will close down indefinitely starting today.

Tri Marine said early this week that some 700 people would be laid off, while a skeleton crew of 100 will remain at the STP facility, which will now be the company’s logistic hub.

Samoa News has learned that many STP employees are still hopeful that the cannery operation will resume early next year, even if it’s through a new owner, while other employees have started looking for jobs.

“It’s sad to lose my job, but for many of us, we are still hopeful,” said one STP employee, who asked not be identified. “And looking for a new job is not easy, but I’ll take anything.”

Meanwhile, "Pay It Forward — Toy Drive Project" spearheaded by Tapumanaia Galu Satele Jr., and his children, to ensure that children of the STP employees have smiling faces, is on going, since Dec. 5 to tomorrow (Dec. 17).  The goal is to collect at least 350 to 400 toys for distribution.

Tapumanaia said yesterday that he and his many volunteers are still planning for next week Monday afternoon for distribution of toys to the affected STP employees. “We are still hopeful to reach our goal by the time we start distribution,” he said.

“I pray for us to come together and help these families of Samoa Tuna and if you can't donate to this project then give to a family in need that you may know in your community, village or church,” he told Samoa News last weekend.

Bins for the toy drive at locations such as KS Mart, Neil’s ACE Hardware, Cost-U-Less, and Laufou Forsgren.