STARKIST SAMOA HAS NEW OWNER, BUT BUSINESS AS USUAL

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO (June 16, 2002 - Samoa News/PINA Nius Online)---American Samoa's big StarKist Samoa fish cannery has a new owner and trade name under an agreement announced last week both on the American mainland and in the territory.

The sale will not have an impact on either the close to 3,000 employees of StarKist Samoa or its production in the territory, local general manager, Phil Thirkel said.

"Business remains as is," he told a news conference at the Atu'u plant.

The only difference is that the local plant will now report to a new owner and it has a new trade name, Del Monte, said Thirkel.

The change for StarKist Samoa calls for the shifting of StarKist Seafood and other divisions of H.J. Heinz to San Francisco-based Del Monte Foods Co. It creates a new entity, with the majority stake held by Heinz shareholders.

The deal is subject to federal regulatory approval, said Thirkel.

Before the news conference, Thirkel met with supervisors and the management team, to inform them of the changes. He assured them that normal operations will be maintained and the new move "is a positive" one.

The management team then briefed the company's workforce. Thirkel will be visiting all areas of the plant over the next few days to assure everyone that business remains the same, except for the new owner.

Thirkel, who will be maintained in his current post, said he hopes that the meeting with the management team and supervisors gave them confidence that they have a role to play in the new operation. Each team member was given a letter outlining the changes.

"I think, basically they went out of the room feeling that their roles here were not threatened and their jobs as supervisors and managers is to keep everyone absolutely focused on what needs to be done day after day," Thirkel said.

"I have no complaints as long as we are still employed," said one cannery worker, who has been with the company for more than 10 years. "This is the lifeline for many of us long timers."

StarKist Samoa produces 61,000-62,000 cases of tuna a day.

According to Heinz, about 11 percent of its global workforce will be transferred to Del Monte. About 100 jobs will be eliminated, but Thirkel said this will not affect the local operation.

The eliminated jobs are expected to be at Heinz's offices in the U.S. and Canada, but none of the operating plants will be affected, said Thirkel.

StarKist Seafood's Vice President of Operation, Barry Mills, is due in the territory soon and will also be reassuring the company's workforce and the government that there will be no changes locally.

Both Heinz and Del Monte issued statements announcing that the two companies have entered into a "definitive agreement."

Del Monte will own and operate eight former Heinz factories, including Pittsburgh and Pago Pago facilities. Eight United States distribution centers will also transfer to Del Monte, Heinz said.

According to the fact sheet released to the local media, the American Samoa production facility will have the largest work force for the new Del Monte. The next largest workforce is in Pittsburgh (720 people). The smallest production facility, 30 people, is in Calgary (Canada).

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

For additional reports from the Samoa News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa News.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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