Gov. explains compensation and salary adjustments for certain agencies after DHR review
Pago Pago, AMERICA SAMOA — The Department of Human Resources has completed a review and adjustment salary threshold for employees with 25+ years of service, as well as a compensation policy for 4 other executive branch departments.
This is according to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s State of the Territory Comprehensive Report to the Fono and the US Department of Interior earlier this month. Lolo had mandated the DHR to conduct a review of the Organizational Chart of executive branch agencies. And the review was to assess each agency’s organizational hierarchy and its reporting parameters necessary to maximize their services and support to the community.
The governor’s report cited activities performed and accomplished, pertaining to various agency organizational charts and classification reviews.
According to the report, DHR did “successfully adjust salary thresholds” for long serving (25-plus years of service) ASG personnel with low wages — for example, $11,000 to be adjusted up to $20,000 per annum. “This undertaking has been an arduous review process for low income wage earners,” the governor said.
The adjustment comes as lawmakers during budget hearings last year, voiced concerns over the low-pay scale for ASG workers and urged the Administration to look at those who have worked in government for more than 20 years.
Lolo said 2019 “marks the successful realignment of entry level threshold” for Treasury Department’s Custom Agents at $15,000 per annum for trainee and $17,000 for a Custom Officer I.
“This initiative entices the retention of qualified employees from out migration and remain competitive to recruit top talent in the law enforcement community,” he explained. Under the section of the report dealing with Customs collection, Lolo pointed to a new compensation policy implemented last October. (See Samoa News Jan. 27th edition for details.)
According to the governor, the Health director launched a policy formulation of Physician Compensation for DoH following an extensive review of physician’s market value and a base salary of $60,000.
Also to be included, besides the salary, is requisites necessary to entice more qualified talent to return to American Samoa for employment, and retention of highly skilled labor for institutional awareness and improving quality and preventative care for the people of American Samoa.
Lolo didn’t elaborate on when such compensation would be implemented.
PUBLIC SAFETY DEPARTMENT
The Organizational Structure and Compensation Schedules for police service, fire bureau, correctional facility officers, program managers, and REAL ID technicians is completed, said Lolo. And the results have “elevated the starting salary threshold” for all entry level officers at $16,000 and strengthened their workforce by providing support to recruit, retain, and employ more than 130 officers in the 25th, 26th, and 27th Police Academies.
Over the years during Fono budget hearings, lawmakers have consistently called for a hike in starting salaries for police officers, and those who’ve been on the force for years.
“We have successfully revised and upgraded the compensation schedule and position reclassifications” for ASDOE, said Lolo — specifically for assistant directors, program directors, principals, vice principals, and School Lunch Program administration and personnel.
“A thorough review and implementation of policies to reflect this realignment against their strategic plan will ensure the retention of highly qualified employees,” Lolo said. Data in the report states that reclassification calls for current entry level for teachers with Associate of Arts degrees at $11,696; Bachelor’s at $23,000; and Master’s at $27,000. Furthermore, principals and administrators’ new average salaries are $38,000 and $42,000 respectively. The report didn’t provide salary levels for the other positions.
“The desire to staff each classroom with a bachelor degree holder remains wanting as there are still 236 teachers with only an Associate’s Degree constituting 29% of the total teacher corps,” Lolo pointed out. He explained that the distribution of educational credentials for the teaching personnel of the ASDOE shows that 64 lacked degree determination, 3 less than an Associate’s degree, 236 Associate’s degrees, 343 Bachelor’s degrees, 178 Master’s degrees, 2 Doctorates, and 13 others.
WORKFORCE DRUG TESTING
Lolo provided an update of the new alcohol and drug testing of ASG employees law, enacted early last year. He said DHR has successfully launched the initiative by providing orientation and training for more than 4,500 members of the ASG workforce, to include cabinet members, first responders, teachers, and others. Additionally, DHR is working closely with line-agencies on conditions that meet the requirements of random testing, suspect testing, and referrals to treatment and rehabilitation services.
(The law also requires drug and alcohol testing — handled by DoH and LBJ — for those entering the ASG workforce.