First batch of seasonal workers fly out

The first group of seasonal workers have flown out of the country for New Zealand on the first of four charter flights scheduled for this month.

Some of the workers are returning to New Zealand, having previously been employed under New Zealand’s R.S.E. Scheme, while others are on their first trip.

Despite the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions by the Government at the Faleolo International Airport, pictures and video footage uploaded to Facebook by the departing workers’ families and friends, showed they gathered at the airport on Sunday to see them off on the 2pm charter flight.

Natia Faasavalu, who has been deployed under the R.S.E. Scheme since 2009, has been working in New Zealand’s Hastings region picking apples. 

The Samoa Observer was unable to get a comment from him, but his wife Lizabeth Faasavalu told this newspaper in an interview that her husband is determined to be deployed every year as a seasonal worker.

"He's probably gone 13 times now because his first trip was in 2009," Mrs Faasavalu said. "But I recall that there was one year that he went twice in. 

“He came back in May and then left again at the end of November, he's always gone every year since then and he has been really determined since then."

According to Mrs Faasavalu, her husband's group will be quarantined for 14 days in Auckland, before they travel down to Hastings where they will be based for the next seven months.

"They'll go down to Hastings after quarantine and then will start work the next week," she added. 

Mrs Faasavalu is of the view that her husband will continue working under the R.S.E. Scheme until he's no longer eligible, as he is still fit to work and his name continues to be included in the deployment list. 

She recalled that her husband's group would always leave around February of each year.

However, this year, the global pandemic had an impact on their departure dates which led to them leaving early this month.

Mr Faasavalu returned to Samoa mid-September last year and his 11-year involvement in the R.S.E. Scheme has already paid dividends, enabling him to build a new house for his family.

"He's now gone back to work so we could finish our home and so that we could have things to fully-furnish our home," added his wife.

There will be three more charter flights for New Zealand-based R.S.E. workers scheduled for 21 January, 25 January and 29 January for the first cohort of workers from Samoa with an additional 151 workers flying out on 26 February. 

The workers who departed Sunday are the first batch to have departed Samoa since April last year, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic which led to travel restrictions and international border closures. 

The workers will undergo 14 days quarantine at designated facilities in New Zealand where they will also be paid for the duration of their quarantine period.

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