Minimum wage hike of 40¢ goes into effect today, September 30, 2021
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With the new federal mandated minimum wage hike of 40 cents per hour for all industry classifications in American Samoa effective today, the private sector remains concerned over the possible loss that has occurred or will occur soon, with their workforce looking at ASG for a job where the minimum wage is much higher.
And their concern was shared by many lawmakers last month, when ASG officials appeared in separate committee hearings in both the Senate and House, with legislators arguing that ASG should have some sort of consultation with the private sector, especially with the American Samoa Chamber of Commerce, as businesses will be affect with workers going to ASG.
The Lemanu Administration implemented a new minimum wage hike of $7.25 per hour along with reclassification for all other salary levels that become effective July 1st. Under the new federal minimum wage, government is now $5.61 per hour.
While the private sector has been prepared and aware of the new wage hike since the last one in 2018, businesses that responded to Samoa News queries say they are concerned with their workers leaving to seek jobs in the government.
In a few instances some workers have already resigned and have been hired by agencies within the Executive Branch, working as clerks, according to the businesses officials, who all asked not to be identified by name or their place of employment.
“It’s so very difficult now that the private sector is competing among themselves to hire workers and then keep them,” said two officials. “But here is ASG with higher wages, making it difficult to hire in the private sector.”
For the new minimum wage, the canneries — the territory’s largest private employer — it’s now $5.96 per hour. The canneries designation includes fishing, canning and processing as well as can manufacturing at the Satala-based can plant. There has been no official statement from the StarKist corporate office in the U.S on the wage increase.
A U.S Government Accountability Office report issued in June last year states that according to data provided by StarKist Samoa, most cannery workers in American Samoa would be impacted by a minimum wage increase.”
“Specifically, over 90% of StarKist Samoa’s employment — roughly 2,200 workers — could be affected by the next minimum wage increase scheduled for September 30, 2021. At 2018 levels of employment, labor costs could increase by about $2 million at 2021 minimum wage levels,” according to the GAO cited data from StarKist.
American Samoa’s highest minimum wage category at $6.79 per hour — effective today — in the Shipping and Transportation industry, Classification A- Stevedoring, Lighterage, and Maritime Shipping Agency activities.
Samoa News notes the new wage increase also covers the “Miscellaneous Activities” industry, and “Includes Domestic Workers”, with the new minimum at $5.40 per hour.
Domestic workers, covers all those who are brought in to do domestic work at a person’s home. The US Labor Department made this clear in 2017 when questions were raised over whether a person brought in from Samoa or recruited locally as a baby-sitter or housekeeper, is considered a domestic worker.
USDOL advised an employer that it must pay all its employees, including casual and seasonal laborers, at a rate at least in the amount prescribed for the employer's industry. This applies even though an employee's job might appear to better correspond to the description of another industry classification.
For example, an employee hired by a maritime shipping agency to provide duplication services must be paid at least the minimum rate set for the maritime shipping classification, not the lower rate that would apply to the same work if performed by an employee within the printing industry.
As of yesterday morning, USDOL has yet to update the Minimum Wage Poster for American Samoa to be used by employers and also to be posted in the employer’s office, to reflect the new wage hikes as of today.
For more information online: [https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/state/minimum-wage/american-samoa]
USDOL’s Wage and Hour Division with jurisdiction over American Samoa is the Hawaii office at (808) 541-1361.