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StarKist looks to Samoa for 200 workers — local recruitment lags

Aerial view of Starkist canning plant in American Samoa

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA —  StarKist Samoa, the largest private employer in the territory, has finally confirmed the number of workers it wants to hire from neighboring Samoa, under the territory’s Guest Worker Permit Law, after local recruitment efforts were not “favorable as expected”.

The law requires that only those of Samoan ancestry from Samoa are hired under the Guest Worker Permit Program, which was enacted several years ago.

Last month, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga authorized the reactivation of the Guest Worker Program, in “light of the severe and acute absenteeism challenge, which is negatively affecting StarKist’s productivity and financial viability, along with the difficulty in finding replacement workers within the territory.”

StarKist Inc., has yet to respond to Samoa News questions emailed last month, on the number of workers StarKist Samoa is looking to recruit under the program.

In an official announcement last Thursday, StarKist Samoa revealed that it is recruiting 200 qualified Guest Workers from Samoa to work as fish cleaners. It says the “candidates must be honest, skilled, able-bodied, and hard working.”

Responding to follow-up media questions, StarKist Samoa official Taotasi Archie Soliai said last Thursday night that the cannery “is looking to hire additional workers to minimize disruption in operation.”

“Employee attendance was very low last year. The high absenteeism, as with any company, has a negative impact on operation,” he explained. “StarKist Samoa has advertised for workers locally; however, the response has not been as favorable as expected.”

“Guest workers will provide much needed stability to our workforce,” he said, noting that StarKist appreciates Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale, the Immigration Office and ASG “for the support on this important issue.”

In reactivating the Guest Worker Program on Jan. 11, 2019, Lolo pointed to the “adverse impact on the influx of guest workers on the resources, utilities, infrastructure, and basic services of American Samoa”. He urged StarKist Inc., to “practice due diligence in utilizing those individuals from Samoa who are already living in the territory and particularly with first preference recruitment of American Samoa nationals.”

In the announcement, StarKist specified requirements for possible workers: they must be between 19 and 45 years old, and have health and police clearances from the government of Samoa.

The hiring process is limited to the first 300 applications received, and those to be hired require approval of the ASG Immigration Office.

Afterwards, Starkist will schedule an in-person interview in Apia on a date and time to be set, on an appointment-only basis.

(Published elsewhere in today’s edition is a StarKist Samoa paid advertisement outlining specific details of the recruitment process as well as the “local host” for those hired from Samoa).