SACKED SAMOAN SAILORS CRY FOUL OVER TERMINATION BY GERMANS

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By Mathew Lemisio

APIA, Samoa (July 30, 2002 - Samoa Observer/PINA Nius Online)---Ten Samoan sailors have found themselves in "rough waters" after their contracts with the Germany shipping company Ahrenkiel were "prematurely terminated."

Not only have these sailors lost their jobs, they’ve also lost what they claim to be $500 in unpaid wages.

They claim Samoa Shipping Services (SSS), the agency through which they were employed to work for the German shipping company, has refused to pay them.

"All we can say at this stage is that these sailors misbehaved while on the job," a senior officer at Samoa Shipping Services, who asked not to be named, told the Samoa Observer.

"That’s why they were sent home before their contracts were over."

Asked what he meant by "misbehaved," the senior officer said: "That was all it said in the report forwarded to us by Ahrenkiel. They did not elaborate."

But according to one of the sailors, Visesio Amituana‘i, this was not true.

He said another Samoan sailor working on a different ship owned by Ahrenkiel started it all when he complained about his salary.

"I don’t think making a complaint is misbehaving," Mr. Amituana‘i said. "The sailor complained about his salary.

"But instead of complaining to Ahrenkiel or SSS, he took it straight to the International Transport Federation.

"That’s probably why they came up with this decision. They might have been offended with the way this sailor pursued his complaint."

Mr. Amituana‘i added that he had never thought one person’s actions could affect the rest of the crew.

"I thought they were going to deal with this guy alone instead of sending us all home."

Mr. Amituana‘i said they learned about their dismissal the day before they docked in Suva two weeks ago.

"Before we reached Suva, the captain called us to his room and gave us the bad news," Mr. Amituana‘i explained. "And that was the reason he gave us."

Mr. Amituana‘i also said they, too, complained about their salaries. But only with Ahrenkiel and Samoa Shipping Services.

"Before we left, we signed contracts with Samoa Shipping Services giving us salaries of US$ 600 a month. But when we got our pay slips onboard, we were supposedly paid more than US$ 1,000 a month.

"SSS never told us where the rest of our money went. We asked our families, while on a voyage, if they received any money, and they told us they got about US$ 300 a month.

"And now SSS is refusing to pay us what’s remaining of our salaries."

Asked for a comment, the Samoa Shipping Services senior officer said an investigation was under way.

"A final decision will be made once the investigation is completed," he said.

But as for Mr Amituana‘i, his passion for sailing is now gone. He is currently looking for a job, preferably on firmer ground.

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

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

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