Just transition of Yazaki workers critical for Samoa

25 August 2017, 12:00AM

 The closure of the largest private employer, Yazaki EDS Samoa Ltd., today, will have economic and labour market implications for Samoa. 

The International Labour Organization (I.L.O) is responding with a series of national partner organisation led programmes to ensure redundant workers are provided with employment and social protection services that could lead to securing waged and self-employment. 

After 25 years of operation of the Japanese multinational enterprise which is currently employing approximately 700 workers is set to officially cease operations today, 25 August 2017. 

Based on the last Labour Force Survey (L.F.S 2012), the company provided employment for approximately 15% of the national formal urban workforce and approximately 30% of manufacturing sector workers. 

The national manufacturer of electrical harnesses for cars exports to General Motors and Toyota Australia, comprising approximately 60per cent of Samoa’s total exports.    

“Our preliminary assessment indicates that 60% of Yazaki workers are youth, 62% are women and 50% are sole income earners in their families,” said Donglin Li, the I.L.O Director for Pacific Island Countries.

“In addition, approximately ST$1.040m total annual income circulating in the economy will cease. Therefore, you can already deduce the magnitude of impact this will have on family income, quality of life and local private sector.” 

He added that this is why the I.L.O, in collaboration with its tripartite partners view this as a priority. 

In May of this year, the I.L.O conducted a mapping exercise of existing employment and social protection services in Samoa, some of which were established through past I.L.O technical assistance, and as such recommendations were put forward to the Samoa National Tripartite Forum (S.N.T.F). 

“With the closure of Yazaki already highlighted as a concern in the Samoa National Employment Policy (S.N.E.P) launched in November 2016, the S.N.T.F endorsed the I.L.O recommendations,” said Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling, the chair of the S.N.T.F. 

Labour Market Surveys conducted by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L) indicated in 2004 and 2007 that the manufacturing Industry was the largest employer with about 20% of total workforce. 

It was in 2010 that the industry started to see a slight decline and by 2013 the manufacturing industry was ranked 3rd behind Wholesale Retail and Motor Vehicle Repair industries. 

However, Yazaki still remained the largest employer in the manufacturing industry and private sector. 

Tomasi Peni, the I.L.O National Coordinator in Samoa said that 86% of the workers had below tertiary level qualifications are therefore more likely to experience longer period of unemployment. Therefore, the I.L.O’s first intervention was to work with the Yazaki senior management and staff association to build their capacity on career counselling and plan the best approach for various programmes so no one is left behind, he further added. 

Uelese Tupuola, the President of the Yazaki Staff Association, said that the trainers have already reached out to about 130 workers since May and they will plan to extend this knowledge to more before the closure. 

From 16th August, the I.L.O supported national partners have commenced registering the soon to be redundant workers for various programmes. These include: 

1. The Samoa National Youth Council (S.N.Y.C) has commenced registering youths on their e-Youth Hub which generates Curriculum Vitaes automatically and is linked to the government Labour Market Information System (L.M.I.S). This will also provide village level information of youths for relevant government ministries to extend community based economic empowerment programmes, including overseas seasonal work schemes. 

2. The Samoa Chamber of Commerce & Industry (S.C.C.I) has commenced delivering training on how to manage redundancy packages and registering for their internship programmes. The internship programme will provide opportunities for the workers to be placed in various private sector organisations with the aim to secure full time employment. 

3. The Samoa First Union is registering individual workers to provide protection services and training on rights and non-discrimination. The Samoa Workers Congress (SWC) is supporting this initiative. 

4. The Small Business Enterprise Center (S.B.E.C) is registering women, particularly sole family earners with in-school children for business training and mentorship. 

“The registrations have been progressing well with overwhelming interest by the workers for the various programmes. This has also created roll-on effects. Four private companies turned up wanting to recruit 50 workers. Yazaki has topped up the initial ILO funds to SBEC to allow for more women to access their programme. The support is incredible,” said Mr. Peni. 

The General Manager of Yazaki EDS Samoa Ltd, Funefeai Oliva Vaai, and Manager of Human Resources, Papali’i Tate Simi are supportive of the technical assistance from I.L.O and Yazaki acknowledges the assistance through the programmes for Yazaki workers since May this year to present and beyond the closure. 

 “At the end of the year, the I.L.O plans to undertake an evaluation of the programmes to determine what impact they have had. We then hope to share this model and lessons for potential replication in countries facing similar challenges and how this may impact on the future of work in the Pacific,” said Mr Donglin Li.  

The closure of Yazaki EDS Samoa Ltd is linked to the shutdown of General Motors and Toyota plants in Australia, relocating its operations to Thailand. In 2014, a University of Adelaide report estimated almost 200,000 jobs will be lost in Australia alone due to the closure of these major car manufactures.

I.L.O National Coordinator Mr. Peni, also like to convey his sincere appreciation to the support of Funefeai Oliver Vaai, Papalii Tate Simi and the Yazaki management for the great opportunity and partnership in allowing ILO and its national partners to provide the assistance services for the workers of the company. Nevertheless support of these companies that managed to run interviews and recruiting during the last 2 weeks from Yazaki; Ah Liki Investment Limited, Italiano Pizza Bar, and Orator Hotel.

25 August 2017, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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