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StarKist cuts back on production citing continuing worker shortage

StarKist employees at gate

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA —  U.S based StarKist Co., has confirmed that its StarKist Samoa cannery in American Samoa has scheduled one-production shift per day, for two weeks, as the company continues with the ongoing challenges of securing workers.

Samoa News had received word from StarKist Samoa workers — some of them family members of Samoa News staff — claiming that production at the plant will be reduced to one-production shift, a day, starting yesterday, May 24, 2021. And they say that supervisors have informed shift-workers about the changes.

Responding to Samoa News email questions, Michelle Faist, head of StarKist Corporate Affairs, responded with a very brief statement: “StarKist Samoa will operate one shift, starting on Monday, May 24, for the next two weeks. This is a result of the ongoing challenges to secure workers at the plant.”

She also says that Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga and his team were notified of this change at the StarKist Samoa plant.

Faist didn’t reply to other specific questions such as how many workers will be affected with this temporary change, or will there be any lay offs or reduction of working hours for cannery workers.

StarKist Samoa production has three shifts, and information from cannery workers states that the one-production shift, starts at 6a.m. Samoa News observed yesterday morning — after 5a.m. — cannery workers waiting at bus stops for their bus ride to work for the 6a.m. shift.

The one-production shift daily, comes on the heals of the cannery’s one week shut down, during the week of May 10th when they announced “fish shortage is related to low headcount issues that have created a ripple effect within the StarKist Samoa operation.” (See Samoa News May 6th for details.)

It’s been more than a month now since ASG and StarKist Samoa implemented a program to help the cannery address the worker shortages. The program allows foreigners living in the territory with expired P5 Immigration IDs to get the IDs renewed on the condition that they would work for StarKist Samoa.

The Lemanu & Talauega Administration has publicly voiced concerns with workers not returning to work after getting their stimulus checks and have urged all workers — including those at the cannery — not to quit their jobs after getting stimulus checks.

The $1,400 stimulus check — for those who qualify — were released over the last three weeks.

As word spread about the one production shift a day, there were concerns about possible layoffs or reduction of working hours for the cannery workforce. And family members of workers are more concerned with taking home smaller paychecks, with only one production shift per day.

Samoa News points out that anytime there is a shutdown or reduction in cannery production days or operations it also impacts businesses that provide service to StarKist Samoa, such as the aiga buses, which are chartered for workers.