Australia has assured the government that they want to hire Samoans to work under their Seasonal Workers Program, (S.W.P); an identical program to the New Zealand Recognised Seasonal Workers (R.S.E.).
The assurances was made this week via telephone by Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Julia Bishop to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.
“Providing new jobs for our people is a must and a priority in my administration,” Tuilaepa said.
“I have been informed that for this year 120 Samoans are presently employed in Australia by two employers through the S.W.P and a third employer has expressed his interest.
“And the assurances from Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister is leverage for our Seasonal Employment Unit, (S.E.U.) under my Ministry to negotiate with more Australian farmers and businesses to hire more Samoans.
“The advantage of the Australian S.W.P. version is that it’s not for three to seven months as the New Zealand R.S.E. version, instead the temporary hires are renewed every 12 months.
“And unlike New Zealand, there is no quota restricting the number of R.S.E. workers from the Pacific including Samoa who can be hired every year.
“To that extend, I have tasked my S.E.U. people to explore every opportunity available to ensure that we capitalise on the opportunity to secure more R.S.E .jobs for Samoans.”
From the eight Pacific Island sending seasonal workers to Australia and New Zealand, Samoa’s S.E.U. is exclusive and unique, says Chief Executive for the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo.
“We are the only government providing support services through our pre-screening process of applicants,” he said.
“The S.E.U. also provides pre-departure training for our R.S.E. workers bound for Australia and New Zealand. Other Pacific R.S.E. countries recruitment are handled by independent or private agents.”
“From our pre-screening, we have a ready to work pool picked from our best applicants that employers from New Zealand or Australia can personally interviewe here in Apia for final selection.
“The pre-screening and pre-departure orientation is unique and a contributing factor to the increase in our R.S.E. workers number hired by the New Zealand farmers.”.
Aside from the recruitment, Agafili added that there is also the integration phase.
And the S.E.U. is working with the Development Bank of Samoa and the Small Business Enterprise Centre as stakeholders to implement an incentive package for R.S.E. workers to return home and have access to financing to start a small family business.
“Our R.S.E. workers are also encouraged to have their Samoa National Provident Fund contributions deducted automatically from New Zealand,” he continued.
“This is their insurance to the benefits available from the S.N.P.F. which includes a $5,000 death benefit not to mention access to the Fund’s other loan incentives.
“Overall, government priority and commitment to the R.S.E. remains because it is providing more than just jobs and income but hope and prosperity for low income families in the country.
”For this year’s picking season, over 1,600 Samoans are working in New Zealand farms.
That’s an astronomical increase compared to just over 600 workers when Samoa was inducted into the R.S.E. family in 2007.