AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNOR TAUESE SEEKS RECLASSIFICATION OF GOVERNMENT WORKERS'

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SALARIES AND DUTIES

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (September 26, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---Governor Tauese Sunia is seeking Legislative approval of $1.4 million to pay for the salary increases of more than 3,000 government career service employees under a comprehensive reclassification of all positions.

The reclassification, which was recommended by U.S. advisers, started last year under phase one, which increases step increments for career service employees. But with only a few days of Legislative sessions left Tauese, in a letter to lawmakers, urged them to pass the important legislation.

The reclassification, if approved, would increase the overall cost of the government's payroll by about 3%.

According to the Governor, the money to fund the reclassification can be taken from the tobacco and gasoline taxes, because those taxes will not be needed to pay old government bills once the $18.6 million Tobacco Loan money is made available by the U.S. government.

"It has been years since a comprehensive reclassification of all career service positions has been accomplished and a reclassification was promised by this administration," wrote Tauese to the Fono (Legislature) leadership.

"The reclassification is long overdue. The work is done, a funding source has been identified and the time is right for passage of this important measure. I urge you to support early approval of this bill," the Governor concluded.

It remains unsure whether lawmakers will discuss the reclassification, due to the limited number of legislative days left. There is a possibility that the Governor would call a special session next month to finalize this legislation and other outstanding issues before the end of the year.

 

AMERICAN SAMOA GOVERNOR WANTS VISITORS FROM SAMOA TO HAVE A SPONSOR

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (September 25, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---The continued problems encountered by the American Samoa government with overstayers caused by the 3-day permit issued in Samoa is forcing the local government to propose a 14-day permit, which would require a local sponsor.

Governor Tauese Sunia told reporters that he is hoping that the Samoa government would agreed to an American Samoa proposal to lift the 3-day permit now issued in Samoa and instead implement a 14-day permit, still to be issued in Samoa.

If a 14-day permit is adopted, the Governor said that a visitor from Samoa who travels here must first obtain a local sponsor. Under the current system, a Samoan can come over on a three-day permit without being sponsored by anyone from American Samoa.

There is however, a 30-day permit that now requires a local sponsor.

Government officials have testified before the Legislature that the 3-day permit has resulted in many overstayers in American Samoa, with few of the persons from Samoa staying with the person with whom they claimed to be staying.

Under the 14-day permit proposal, Tauese told reporters that American Samoa will set-up an immigration office in Apia, which will make contact with the local immigration office whenever there is a request to secure a sponsorship, before the permit is issued.

Tauese said many of the travelers from Samoa arrive on board the Samoa government-owned MV Lady Naomi. But the vessel only sails to the territory once a week, and the 14-day permit makes more sense than the 3-day permit for ocean vessel travelers.

Lawmakers recently passed legislation that puts the burden on sponsors for immigrants.

"What we are proposing is in line with a recent Fono (Legislature) bill placing greater responsibility on sponsors," Tauese said. "Sponsors will think twice when they have to accept responsibility for paying fines and public bills left unpaid by their guests."

He also observed, once again, that 99% of the immigrants residing in the Territory are not living in their sponsor's household, which is a requirement under current immigration laws.

 

AMERICAN SAMOA WILL NOT BE A REFUGEE CAMP, SAYS GOVERNOR TAUESE SUNIA.

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (September 25, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---The problems between the Daewoosa Samoa garment plant management and their imported foreign workers is making the American Samoa Government very uneasy about any new company that wants to import foreign workers.

Governor Tauese Sunia, during a press conference, said he is "very leery" of proposals from new companies that want to import foreign workers, especially in the garment industry.

Tauese was responding to a question asking if he would approve a request from Morgan Cooper Inc., which wants to open a garment company here and import 50 percent of its workers from China.

Morgan Cooper, chairman of Morgan Cooper Inc. of New York said in a recent interview that when the garment plant starts out, they will have a total workforce of 375, with 50 percent coming from its partners in China.

Daewoosa Samoa is facing serious problems with its 275-member workforce from Vietnam. The workers, through their lawyer, have successfully petitioned the court to prevent the company from returning them to Vietnam until a court ruling is handed down. The court is current conducting hearings on the issue and a temporary injunction has been issued against the company.

The Governor said he would allow no more immigration bond waivers, no matter what, and he would also require a time limit for how long the foreign workers would remain here before being replaced by locals.

"I want to prevent us from becoming a refugee camp," he added.

 

NEW MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE FOR AMERICAN SAMOA

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (September 25, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)--The U.S. Department of Labor has reminded reminding the local government and industries that a new minimum wage went into effect on September 20 and should be fully implemented in accordance with the agreement reached last year during the U.S. minimum wage committee hearing.

The minimum wage increases were spread out over a 12-month period, with the first increase implemented in September of 1999 and the second on September 20th.

The Labor Department said the increase in the overall annual wage bill "is very modest."

The minimum wage increases range from $2.50 to $3.97 per hour, and the U.S. government estimates that when it is fully implemented this year, it will cost employers $1.4 million.

The largest private employer in the territory, the tuna canneries with more than 6,000 employees, increased the minimum wage from $3.17 per hour to $3.20 per hour.

The largest private employer in the territory, the American Samoa government, with a workforce of more than 6,200, must increase the minimum wage from $2.63 to $2.69 per hour.

However, government officials told the U.S. committee that none of the government employees are at the minimum pay scale, except students working under a federal program.

The next U.S. minimum wage committee hearing will take place next year.

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