US Labor Dept re-confirms federally mandated wage hike on Sept 30
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The latest information released by the U.S Labor Department re-confirms that the next federally mandated wage hike of 40-cents per hour for all industry categories in American Samoa becomes effective on Sept. 30th this year.
And this is in accordance with federal law, which provides for an increase of 40cents per hour every three years on Sept. 30th until all of the American Samoa minimum wage rates equal the federal minimum wage. The last wage hike was Sept. 30, 2018.
American Samoa is the only U.S jurisdiction with 18 different industry classifications. For the new minimum wage, the canneries — the territory’s largest private employer — will have a minimum wage increase from the current $5.56 per hour to $5.96.
The canneries designation includes fishing, canning and processing as well as can manufacturing at the Satala-based can plant.
The “American Samoa Economic Trends, Status of the Tuna Canning Industry, and Stakeholders’ Views on Minimum Wage Increases” report released in June last year by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) pointed out that upcoming minimum wage increases in American Samoa will increase labor costs for the tuna canning industry.
“According to data provided by StarKist Samoa, most cannery workers in American Samoa would be impacted by a minimum wage increase,” said GAO. “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 GAO cited data from StarKist.
According to the report, ASG and the American Samoa Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) view the minimum wage increases as conflicting with sustainable economic development, but employers and workers that the GAO interviewed noted both benefits and challenges presented by minimum wage increases.
“The government supports setting a minimum wage that the economy can support, while the Chamber supports delaying minimum wage increases for the cannery. Employers and workers that the GAO interviewed noted a potential positive impact on the livelihood of workers but a potential negative impact on the remaining cannery [StarKist], among other things,” the report said.
For the next minimum wage hike, the government sector — which is currently at $5.21per hour will hike to $5.61 per hour. However, Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga has already ordered the government’s new minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which was effective July 1st this year.
American Samoa’s highest minimum wage category at $6.39 per hour is in the Shipping and Transportation industry, Classification A- Stevedoring, Lighterage, and Maritime Shipping Agency activities. And their wage hike will increase to $6.79 per hour come Sept. 30th.
Information provided by USDOL to Samoa News — and also publicly available on its website —states in part that American Samoa's minimum wage rates are set for particular industries, not for an employee's particular occupation. An employer may choose to pay an employee at a rate higher than the industry-specific minimum wage rate.
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.
USDOL also distributes the Minimum Wage Poster for American Samoa to be used by employers and also to be posted in the employer’s office. However, the poster is not updated yet, to reflect the new effective wage date of Sept. 30th this year.
USDOL’s Wage and Hour Division with jurisdiction over American Samoa is the Hawaii office at (808) 541-1361.