Minister defends Samoa Airways chief's salary

The Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Selafi Purcell, has defended a proposed pay hike for the Chief Executive Officer of Samoa Airways, Seiuli Alvin Tuala, which would bring his salary to $300,000 a year.

“That is the decision by the Board," Lautafi said in response to questions from the Sunday Samoan. 

"Considering the market value of the position, other airline managers make up to $1 million which is an appropriate salary.said. So the [proposed] salary is befitting for an Airline Manager.”

Samoa Airways Board papers dated 1 May 2019 features the discussion about Seiuli's salary.

Among the resolutions during the Board meeting attended by Interim Chairman, Tuia Pu'a Fuatogi and other Board members, Tupuola Misi Tupuola and Vui Lance Lameko, was one about the salary. 

"The meeting agreed after some discussion to approve the salary per annum of for the C.E.O. of S.A. at 300,000 tala with no other benefits," the document reads.

Seiuli did not respond to emails and text messages seeking comments on his salary.

But during an interview with the Sunday Samoan, Minister Lautafi said the previous Samoa Airways C.E.O. had received a higher salary than the current boss of the national carrier.

Lautafi said the remuneration “increment proposed by the board” increases the C.E.O.'s compensation package to $300,000 but refused to divulge what his previous salary was.

“That is the decision by the Board. We have a new Board coming on and they will be the ones to review [the proposal] and it may go higher or lower, it all depends on the board," he said.

“I want to make it clear that the market value of this position, skillset, and his unique talents is worth it then we will consider it".

Asked if it mattered that Seiuli now earned more money than the Minister himself, Lautafi said: “It doesn’t matter. Again we have to consider the market value and the fact that we need Seiuli.

“He’s taken this airline to the next level and, yes, there are other people that make more than the Prime Minister."

Asked about the logic of offering a pay rise when the airline was struggling financially, Lautafi declined to comment directly but said the proposed "increment" increase should have been reviewed at the time the C.E.O.’s contract was up for negotiation.

This week, Lautafi announced that Samoa Airways secured an additional six month wet lease with Malaysian-based airline Malindo.

The entire global airline industry has been hit hard by the global grounding of Boeing Max aircraft following crashes in Indonesia and in Africa, forcing several airlines, including Samoa Airways to hastily arrange to lease replacement aircraft.

“We were able to secure another six months to cater the current routes we have for New Zealand and Australia; and we offer much cheaper airfares," said the Minister.

"These are efforts by the C.E.O and his team to serve our people so they don’t have to pay expensive airfares as we did in the past".

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