Australian seasonal worker employers concerned

By Talaia Mika 17 February 2023, 10:00AM

A group of Australian seasonal worker employers have put the spotlight on "disruptions" in Samoa's seasonal work policy, which they claim is interrupting business continuity in Australia.

Steve Burdette, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Approved Employers Australia, told Radio Australia in an interview on Wednesday that the continued disruption to Samoa's seasonal work programme run by the Samoa Government is impacting their business plans.

"You plan well in advance to get workers in, and having these kinds of disruptions interrupts business continuity and it lets a lot of people down in the process," he said.

"So we encourage them [Samoa] to come up with a firm statement so we can know what the rules are and what the arrangements are going forward."

Mr. Burdette said in an interview that they've been in "regular contact" with Samoan Government officials in recent months and while they respect the decisions that have been made, they've pointed out how disruptive some of the decisions have been on their business.

"Rather than have bits and pieces to work on, and these uncertainty, so we just hope that this now leads to more business continuity because otherwise it is very disruptive.

"I mean, if you are naive trying to plan your labour requirements and you have this disruption, you gotta start thinking, is it worth the risk or do I go elsewhere and I think that's what we are concerned about." 

Samoa's Cabinet last year suspended the deployment of seasonal workers for the rest of January pending a Cabinet review and an investigation by the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour into concerns and issues raised about the scheme's selection process. 

It was later lifted towards the end of January with Deputy Prime Minister, Tuala Ponifasio Tevaga announcing its resumption using the Ministry's current policies for the rest of February, while new policies will go into effect in March this year. 

However, Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa in a previous media conference confirmed that the work by a Sub-Committee appointed by Cabinet to review the policies in place for the R.S.E. is yet to be completed. 

She added that there are a lot of issues that need to be considered by the Sub-Committee. 

"Not only on the operational side of things within the ministry, but also on the selection processes for those eligible under this programme," Fiamē said. 

"From what we observed, the policies that were in place were poorly drafted to meet the international requirements provided under the scheme. 

"It seemed like the ministry could not change how they implemented the programme so that it would be in line with the demands from the countries offering employment opportunities for our people. 

"Secondly, there was no clear explanation on how people were selected. There seemed to be contradictions within the ministry and throughout the country on how people were selected for these opportunities. 

"On the other hand, we also need to look at the demands and how the scheme has changed over the years. When they first introduced the programme, it was mainly for agricultural employment opportunities."

By Talaia Mika 17 February 2023, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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