Yazaki closure will be a disaster unless there is a concrete plan

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

While we expected it, the day we feared would soon arrive has finally been confirmed. On page 2 of your Sunday Samoan yesterday, the story titled “Cabinet confirms end of production for Yazaki” contained the bad news.

That is the nation’s biggest private employer, Yazaki EDS Samoa Ltd, is set to officially shut its doors on 25 August 2017. 

On that day more than 700 workers will find themselves unemployed.

Where will they go? What will they do? What about their families who depend on these employees as they are the breadwinners? 

These are tough questions. But they are relevant and we must starting asking them a little more persistently now.

 Keep in mind that one employee represents an average of 10 or more people who depend on them every day, every week. We are talking about workers who contribute to their families, churches, villages and their communities. It means the impact of the closure would be enormous. 

The worst part is the fact the impact is going to be heaviest on some of the poorest members of this country, people who are already struggling to survive on measly incomes. The fact many of the employees of Yazaki are in this category.

But our problems don’t end there. Let’s not forget that hundreds more workers are expected to lose jobs at the Samoa Tuna Processors (S.T.P.) in American Samoa with the company’s canning operations shutting down indefinitely due to “adverse business conditions.” The knock on effect this will have on Samoa will not help. It is another cruel blow we did not need.

It goes without saying that these are difficult times. It’s not just difficult for the families; it’s also difficult for the government as they try to work out what to do.

So far, we’ve been repeatedly assured that the government is looking at ways to minimise the impact of the closure. The Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, for instance said there are some options.

 “I think in two or three years we will be able to provide for them,” he said. “Obviously with the investment in the submarine cable and the sorts of opportunity that will come in terms connectivity.” 

 “There are also ongoing discussions with some fishing companies who are expressing interest in investing here and looking at expanding on what they are doing.”

With that said, Minister Sili said there is no need to panic. 

“It’s just a matter of firming up on some of those interests and looking at what we can do to make sure that yes we can create jobs. In tourism, if it works well, there will be another area where there will be more opportunities for people to work in.”

Minister Sili’s optimism is commendable. But it sounds vague, just like everything this government has said ever since the announcement was made to close Yazaki. 

In a two months time, we will literally have hundreds and hundreds of people without jobs. 

In a country with unemployment and crime figures are already through the roof, we are heading for an unquestionable disaster. This is not the time for abstract and vague answers. This is the time for details. 

We are talking about real people with real needs. 

When those needs are not met and when desperation sets in, the social and economical problems we are seeing today will only get worse. That’s a future we don’t want. What do you think?

Have a pleasant week Samoa, God bless!

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