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New StarKist CEO praises local workforce

StarKist Samoa’s workforce of 2,000 was highly praised by StarKist Co., president and chief executive officer Andrew Choe, who noted that employee turnover is very low and the workers are very committed to the success of the company.


Choe, who took over the StarKist leadership post on Nov. 1, spent last week in the territory meeting with local officials as well as touring the StarKist Samoa plant talking to employees. He also held a news conference last Friday to answer questions raised by reporters.


He emphasized several times when responding to media questions that StarKist workers are “loyal employees” and “committed, great workers” and the reason for the company’s success. He says that the current workforce “is very stable with hardly any turnover” compared to years past.


“We have made so much improvement [to the plant] in recent months and years and our employees are very committed,” he said. “We are operating at more than full capacity... with very successful results.”


According to StarKist officials the plant has been operating at least a six-day workweek, Monday to Saturday, for several months now.


Asked about any other new benefits or improved working conditions for the workforce, Choe responded that one of the reasons that he brought to the territory, StarKist Co., manager of human resources, Linda Gilbert, was to look at some other issues and benefits “we could do as a company” as well as to "better working conditions for our committed workforce.”


StarKist Samoa deputy general manager Fa’afoi Palepua added that the company is “looking as to what we can do more to help our employees” and that there has been a lot of improvement to the plant over the years.


When Dongwon purchased StarKist Co. several years ago, the new owners would send senior management staff to the local plant to work and train the local workforce, while some from here were sent to Dongwon’s facility based in South Korea.


Asked if this practice still continues today, Choe said “yes” and pointed out that, “we have some employees still coming in and going out, so to transfer some knowledge and skills. [And]  it's happening even at the moment.”


“We regularly send employees from here to Korea, even to Ecuador, so we can exchange employees [and] can transfer the knowledge and training,” he said. (In addition to American Samoa, the other StarKist cannery is in Ecuador).


Asked how many more years the company plans to remain in the territory, Choe said, “at this point we are very committed to StarKist Samoa and StarKist Co. cannot succeed without StarKist Samoa.”