The Samoan Seafarers Union (S.S.U.) has taken up the concerns on its members’ contracts and working conditions with the Prime Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
The Prime Minister confirmed this in an interview with the Samoa Observer, saying there are issues that need to be addressed.
“Yes the matter reached my office. However, the issued is being handled by board and I had to refer this matter back to them. The seafarers came directly to me, yet there are issues on the ground level that needs to be addressed in order to assist them,” said the Prime Minister.
Sailors who had raised their concerns with the union as well as S.S.U. president Fred Amoa declined to comment when contacted by this newspaper. Some sailors feared that speaking with the media will only jeopardize their efforts to get the authorities to address their grievances.
A posting on the official Facebook page of the Samoan Seafarers and Maritime Union showed that the sailors threatened to go on strike when they met last week to discuss the issue.
The statement said the S.S.U. members met with Samoa Shipping Corporation (S.S.C.) Minister Papalii Niko Lee Hang, the S.S.C. Board, the C.E.O. and the management.
“The S.S.U. in response through the president, vice-president and legal counsel stressed that strike by S.S.U. members is the very last option and it is not encouraged for obvious reasons. The S.S.U. is a new entity and it has its constitution to adhere to, with emphasis to find employment opportunities for its members and it is working alongside S.S.S. (Samoa Shipping Services) for those reasons. However, S.S.U. is mandated also to assist its members embroiled in industrial grievances,” the statement posted on the Facebook page stated.
The S.S.U. also sought clarification from the S.S.C. on whether their current salary scale was in line with the Remuneration Tribunal's scale.
“The S.S.U. also stressed the effective implementation of Maritime Labour Convention that Samoa ratified in 2013 plus the LERA law. The M.L.C. in particular is for seafarers worldwide and Samoa must implement in order to meet its international obligations and it is an opportunity for Samoa – through S.S.C. – to show best accepted practice on international labour standards by adopting and adapting the same.”
The statement also stated that it was agreed that both the S.S.C. and the S.S.U. meet to review a draft action plan to address key issues and report back to the S.S.C. Board and Cabinet.
Repeated efforts to get comments from Minister Papali’i and the S.S.C. Chief Executive Officer Papali’i Willie Nansen were unsuccessful.