Samoan seasonal workers desperate for action

Seasonal workers say they are desperate to leave again for work overseas amidst the global pandemic, the founder of the Falealili Seasonal Workers Programme, Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale, says.

About 200 men who went last season and were among those repatriated earlier this year are willing to go back for work next season, he told this newspaper.

“We have a very large waiting list so finding replacements is never a problem,” Tuatagaloa said.

“With the general lack of employment opportunities, apart from working their own plantation, for rural dwellers, there is a huge demand for seasonal work in both N.Z. and Australia.

“A ‘hard working’ [Recognised Seasonal Employment worker] earns in six months what his locally employed counterpart earns in about three-and-a-half years. That is the major benefit that is lost if they do not return for the next season.”

At the moment, about 20 men from the programme had their visa extended after choosing to remain overseas. 

They will head straight into the next season and will only be able to return in May 2021.

However, not only fruit pickers and meat manufacturing workers are desperate to travel overseas for work.

The Samoa Observer understands that about 400 local individuals have expressed interest in working opportunities in aged care work.

In Australia, aged care is one of the fastest-growing employment sectors and Samoan workers are on the waiting list for labour supply. 

Tuatagaloa said high demand is coming from three Australian states: Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

He said that the pay rates for aged care workers are generally higher than those who work on farms. 

Currently, two women from the Poutasi programme are serving out the rest of their three-year visa at an aged care facility after being made redundant from hospitality work under the Pacific Labour Scheme due to COVID-19.

“Now that the word is out about aged care, there is much interest,” Tuatagaloa said.

However, amid the COVID19 pandemic, major challenges remain which include, the travel restrictions, quarantine requirements in Australia, and the high cost of insurance to cover the risks of workers potentially catching the virus.

“Interestingly, when our members were reminded of the risks, they did not seem too concerned and were willing to sign a waiver that would say that they travel to Australia at their own risk if they are satisfied with the safety and security measures that the programme will be offering,” Tuatagaloa said. 

Aged care work demands good English skills. That requirement has led the Poutasi programme to initiate a Numeracy and Literacy assessment of interested women and men who have expressed their willingness to be considered for the positions.

Tuatagaloa also revealed that they are in discussions with the Australia Pacific Training Coalition about the prospect of delivering new, higher levels of certification for prospective aged care workers.

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