American Samoa Government Seeks Federal Support For Displaced Cannery Workers

Samoa Tuna Processors to close operations on December 11

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Dec. 1, 2016) – American Samoa continues to collect data for it’s application to the federal government for possible funding to help workers who will be dislocated when Samoa Tuna Processors cannery plant operation closes down indefinitely in less than two weeks.

Commerce Director Keniseli Lafaele told Samoa News last month that Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga had appointed a committee to look at ways to assist, including possible federal funding, for the “up to 800 or possibly more,” employees who will lose their jobs when STP closes indefinitely on Dec. 11.

Asked as about the status of the application and from which federal agency ASG plans to seek federal funding for the displaced STP workers, Lafaele said yesterday that the dislocated worker grant program application “is a work in progress” and the application is to the US Department of Labor’s National Dislocated Worker Grants, which replaced the National Emergency Grant (NEG) program.

“Total funding depends on the data collected and included in the application,” said Lafaele adding that information for the application pertains to number of workers to be dislocated, immigration status, skills, and other relevant information. “Data needs to be collected from STP through surveys and existing data.”

The ASG Department of Human Resources is leading the ASG application. Lafaele said that to his understanding once the application is complete, it's sent to the regional office in San Francisco, which in turn forwards it to the national office after their review, for final approval.

And per DHR, “it normally takes 30 days or less before the national office issues their decision,” he explained.

Asked if ASG has received any feed back from STP if the cannery is still planning to indefinitely shut down on Dec. 11, Lafaele said that he “received word informally that this date might be pushed back so to meet outstanding contracts.

The ASG committee working on helping the displaced workers is composed of key staff of the Governor's office, Attorney General’s Office, Human Resources Department, the American Samoa Fishery Task Force and DOC.

“The needs of Tri Marine, like those of StarKist, are related to the question of whether or not the tuna industry in American Samoa is viable and can be sustained in the long run,” Lafaele points out. “Answer to this question in turn is a function of federal law and policies impacting fishery access, non-recognition of American Samoa as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), minimum wage, and tariff protection of our tuna industry.”

The Samoa News
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