The Chief Executive Officer of Samoa's Chamber of Commerce, Hobart Vaai, is optimistic that with hard work, the country will be able to minimise the impact of the closure of Yazaki Samoa Ltd, as announced earlier this week.
Speaking to Radio New Zealand, Mr. Vaai said Samoa has no other option but to remain optimistic. It calls for all the relevant stakeholders to work even harder. That includes the government and the private sector.
“Well we have to be,” he said. “From the private sector’s point of view, it is an issue but we have to exploit other avenues.
“We’re looking at a cocoa initiative we have at the moment, encouraging farmers to replant cocoa.”
From the Chamber’s perspective, Mr. Vaai said it is committed to doing whatever it can to help.
“We’re working as much as possible in assisting the transition process, looking at areas such as job creation and small business development,” he said.
“We are really looking at encouraging entrepreneurship and providing opportunities for those who will be transitioning to unemployment.
“We’ll be looking at other areas to find them employment, moving forward.”
The gap in employment exists following the announcement by Yazaki that some 740 employees will soon find themselves without jobs with the company shutting shop.
Y.E.S. Branding Division Manager in Japan, Yoko Yamada, said the closure is due to the car manufacturing industry in Australia winding down.
Over the years, Yazaki has been supplying products to the Australian automotive market but the latest developments in the market there have had a “knock on impact here,” forcing the company to re-evaluate the viability of their operation in Samoa.
“The demands of the market for shorter lead times and more flexibility coupled with the logistics connections to Samoa make it commercially un-viable to supply any other market for example U.S.A. or Japan from here,” he said.
“As a result we have been trying to identify other alternatives for this operation. Unfortunately we have not been able to identify anything viable and must therefore announce that we will phase out production operations in Samoa.”
Y.E.S. President, Craig O’Donohue said the situation is difficult and the company does not know exactly when it will officially close.
“I think you would understand that last Friday was the last production order for Ford Motor Cars in Australia and this is the start of what we are calling the winding down of Australian car operation. This is likely to continue in Australia until the end of 2017 but we have no idea exactly when.”
About the employees, the President assured they would be given the necessary support. The support includes up-skilling, re-skilling, life skill training and opportunities offshore.
Mr. O’Donohue said they would engage every employee to ask them about what they want and what they expect from the company on a plan that suits them.
As for the packages, he said the factory people would be given a lump sum for their service.
According to Mr. O’Donohue when the car company first announced closure of their manufacturing operation in Australia Y.E.S. immediately at the time engaged in discussion with the government of Samoa and other options outside the comfort zone of the company.
“We had about eight key programmes anything from tourism to shipping, agriculture, textiles,” he recalled.
“We put together a crazy summary of business opportunities. We looked strongly at breadfruit opportunities to make flour. There have been a lot of research done in that area and also agriculture, but that project is quite foreign to Yazaki operation. Yazaki has some experience with agriculture and was interested in that but with those we just couldn’t find a viable business.” For Mr. Va’ai, he said Yazaki’s closure is disappointing.
"It's shocking but you know, we're just staying positive," he said.
"At this time we're pulling together. We're pulling together not only for the sake of Yazaki, but the employees and the impact it will have on our economy. But we're staying positive and we're going to work hard and aggressively to ensure that the impact is minimal, and hopefully, none at all."
Yazaki has operated in Samoa for 25 years.