StarKist Co. issues statement on its exemption from local emergency declaration
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The governor’s exemption of StarKist Samoa operations and its supporting businesses from the current emergency declaration allows the company’s production to continue and supports US President Donald Trump’s mandate to keep food supply manufacturing in production.
This is according to a StarKist Co., statement yesterday morning from its headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and it’s the first time — since the governor issued the exemption — that the company discussed its local operations and response to the exemption.
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga in a Mar. 20th letter informed StarKist Samoa general manager Jason Kim of the cannery’s exemption from the provisions of the declaration. Lolo notes that Trump’s call for all manufacturing and processing facilities to speed production of healthcare and food supplies is heeded, resulting in the exemption, which includes support businesses for the cannery. (See Samoa News edition Mar. 24th for details.)
“StarKist is qualified as being a life-sustaining business. We are working hard to support President Trump’s mandate to keep U.S. manufacturing of food supplies in production,” the company said in the brief statement.
It also says that the governor has granted StarKist Samoa, and supporting businesses, an exemption from the Emergency Declaration to allow production to continue.
“As of today there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in American Samoa, and those in the StarKist Samoa facility are following all US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention rules and regulations related to the COVID-19 outbreak,” StarKist said.
Asked if production at StarKist Samoa will continue on Friday, Apr. 17th — declared by the governor as the Flag Day 2020 holiday, the company responded yesterday, “StarKist is qualified as being a life-sustaining business during this challenging time, and the plant will be running normal production on April 17th. The Management and Staff of StarKist Samoa wishes a Happy Flag Day holiday to American Samoa.”
In recent letters to US officials relating to COVID-19 activities, the governor has emphasized the importance of the exemption given to StarKist Samoa, not only to ensure food security supply for the nation, but also the continued economic viability of the territory in these difficult times.
As the largest private employer with a workforce of about 2,200, StarKist Samoa is the second economic pillar for the territory — the other is ASG.
One concern raised during an ASG COVID-19 Task Force meeting two weeks ago is that buses chartered by the cannery taking its workers are not complying with half-capacity seating to ensure social distance preventive measures.
The governor instructed the task force to work with the cannery to ensure compliance at all times on the buses. The governor said if the bus has 10 bench-seats, that means only one-person per seat, not two.
Asked for comments, task force chairman Iulogologo Joseph Pereira told Samoa News yesterday that Public Safety has been working with StarKist officials “to find a mutually beneficial solution while achieving our objectives of social distancing.”
“The option which was considered given that StarKist has required all its employees to wear masks to extend the wearing of masks while riding in the buses and DPS will hold the bus driver/ owner [accountable] for any violation of this protocol,” he explained.
Samoa News was informed last week by some cannery workers that StarKist Samoa officials have already implemented this option of workers wearing masks on the bus and any worker who complains or fails to comply — the bus driver is not to take that non-compliant worker as a passenger.
The face-mask is also required when workers are waiting for the bus.
Additionally, the cannery is also enforcing the half-capacity seating on its chartered buses.
StarKist Samoa continues to carry out its health measures implemented since early last month, which includes health screenings at the main gate. It requires team members with ill health symptoms to be home quarantined or go to the hospital for further testing.