Seasonal workers headed for Australia in April

A large group of seasonal workers will be leaving the country for Australia in the next two weeks; the first flight there since borders were closed as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

More than a hundred workers, including a group of women, will be leaving on 7 April and upon arrival will undergo a 14 day quarantine. 

More than 700 Samoan workers left the country for New Zealand in mid-February and have already settled in, according to a statement from the New Zealand High Commission.

Caretaker Minister of Commerce Industry and Labour, Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell urged the seasonal workers to be cautious as they prepared to depart Samoa on 7 and 13 April. 

"This is one of the Government's major plans, finding more jobs for our own local people not only those who traveled overseas also for those who work within Samoa. 

‘’Lots of job opportunities have been provided by Australia and New Zealand for our people to go and work on their farms and land.

"This comes under the partnership between Samoa with New Zealand in 2007 and Australia in 2012, and throughout the ensuing years this scheme is still going with more than two-thousand local workers from Samoa are involved. 

‘’The Government hasn’t stopped hunting for more opportunities. We are not the only country who are involved. Other countries in the Pacific like Vanuatu, Tonga and others even the Asian countries are asking for this."

Lautafi also reminded the workers to use their opportunities wisely. 

‘’This scheme does help many families in our country, in terms of income (financially) because most of the workers they have wives, husbands and kids, or even parents so if something happens you take the blame." 

Alcohol and drugs were one reason for returning some workers from New Zealand in the past years, Lautafi advised on behalf of the people and government of Samoa to take caution and stay away.

‘’We have seen many accidents while at work and it's the number one issue that causes problems... affecting the reputation of workers and ends up with your return. 

‘’Alcohol is not allowed at all.’’

Lautafi did not mince words, mentioning other inappropriate actions such as adultery happening since the start of the scheme. 

‘’My office and the Prime Minister's office was more like a place for people to seek answers for this kind of problem, and it ended up with government taking the blame for these kinds of actions. 

"We don't want that to happen, we offer job opportunities so that you can go and send money back to your families."

Despite the enforcement of Covid-19 restrictions by the Government, the Minister pointed out that a difficult decision was made due to the reduced number of seasonal workers needed. 

‘’This year is not the same as the previous years’’ he said.

‘’Many have not made it to this year due to orders given by the Australian Government in decreasing numbers of workers and the rules must be obeyed or else there are punishments involved. 

‘’Each team that will be leaving has already been divided up into groups. Some will work on picking cabbages while the others in a meat factory."

The Labour Minister also acknowledged the support of parents, families and communities. 

‘’I know it’s not an easy task to leave for more than six months from your families, but it takes courage to work hard for a living." 

A source from the Ministry says the pre-polling for the seasonal workers leaving on the 7 April flight will be held over two days (5 and 6 April). 

A strawberry farm in New Zealand had closed down towards the end of last year and the Ministry did confirm that there are some Samoan workers who are still working until their contract ends up in April/May, but some have other contracts they have already taken up. 

All the seasonal workers will undergo 14 days quarantine at designated facilities in Australia where they will also be paid for the duration of their quarantine period. 

Samoan workers constitute the largest single group of a total of 2000 local workers being bought into the country from across the region. 

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