Am. Samoa Governor Unhappy With Labor Department Threats

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U.S. DOL says it may close departments in violation of labor laws

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Nov. 24, 2014) – The move by the Wage & Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor — that has threatened to close down government departments that are in violation of labor laws — did not sit well with Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga, and he noted this during the ASG cabinet meeting Friday, when he spoke on the issue of overtime and compensatory time.

Lolo said that he "went hard on the labor people — but they were right."

The governor said his only concern is that "I don't want our leaders to be treated unfairly when they come into the office." He noted his job is to assist the DOL and any federal agency to make sure that assistance has been provided, "but not to the extent where they violate the rights of our own leaders."

Governor Lolo said, "I told them, I don't think they can just walk in and demand the close down of that department" and that he also told them— "you better not try that." The governor noted that this occurred at the meeting he had with the Labor people along with the Attorney General and Human Resources Director.

Lolo told his cabinet during Friday’s meeting that he was not proud of how he acted towards the DOL people, "but I feel personally that we should not be treated the way you (directors) were treated.

"When someone walks in and threatens to close down this government, I cannot sit around… you better not try to do that" he said, referring to his remarks to the DOL people.

Lolo urged his cabinet members however to look into this matter because "the problem is you —as the director. Don’t blame the HR or Treasury," he told his cabinet.

The governor said it appears the clock is dictating the work of employees and that there is no connection between supervisors or management teams and their employees.

He further told his cabinet the reason for this predicament is because directors are not doing their job, when it comes to overtime issues.

Lolo said there are several departments that are having this problem repeatedly because they are not following the law.

He explained, the DOL says that if a government employee clocks in at 4a.m. or 2a.m. — the government must pay them. "I don't blame them, my commitment is to make sure that we do not short change any of our people, but the issue is, we really need to know what we are doing" in terms of overtime.

The governor then pointed out that the administration is looking into the clock-in process the government is currently using because there seems to be a disconnection between the employees from their managers or leaders.

"All the employees clock in and clock out and there is no communication, no personal contact with managers," he stated.

Referring to the timecards, Lolo said, "I hate to say it’s affecting the life of the working employees, and what’s interesting is, we are losing the productivity of this government — we pay more money for less production."

He challenged his cabinet members to do something about this because the administration needs to find the right approach for a solution to the overtime issue.

Governor Lolo told the cabinet not to blame the Human Resources Department director if their people don’t get paid: "Let’s get it straight — if you don’t do your homework, he’s not going to pay you."

He urged the departments, which are having these problems, to sit down and look into their operations.

"You should know your operation by heart, otherwise, we will continue to face the same problem," he told them.

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