Airport workers provide essential service: Silimana’i

Samoa Airport Authority (S.A.A.) staff continue to work in the frontline despite the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, says Chief Executive Officer, Silimana’i Ueta Solomona.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer on Monday, the C.E.O. said his staff continue to provide an essential service during the pandemic, especially the processing of repatriation flights and their cargo as well as incoming passengers. 

“We’re all doing just fine while assisting the Government in repatriating our citizens back home,” he said in a telephone interview.

Silimanai said there are positions within the organisation that still need to be manned and the number of working staff has not been reduced.

“So far there have been no employees that have been laid off and if when the time comes that it’s necessary to do that then we’ll inform you but at the moment no,” he added.

Together with workers from the Ministry of Health, Samoa Airways and the Police, Silimanai said the S.A.A. staff are considered frontline workers at the Faleolo International Airport and play an essential role. 

But a staff member of the S.A.A., who spoke on the condition of anonymity, expressed concern at the decision of their management to allegedly halve their working hours from 80 to 40.

He described the decision to reduce staff working hours as a poor choice and said the cost cutting measure should be diverted to other areas such as the Ti’avea airport project. 

“We’re grateful to the Samoa Airport Authority for keeping its employees on the loop during the Covid-19 lockdown. However, the Government should consider which is the best priority,” he said.

“And we believe they should put more focus on the employees instead of the Ti’avea airport, at least for now, especially during this time around where everything is falling down.

“The 50 per cent cut in the employees’ working hours, I believe, is a compromise to keep everyone employed hence why I praised them. But it’s just that area that the majority is concerned about.

“With regards to the airport [at Ti’avea], well as well all know there have been rarely any flights coming in so there is no need to rush that airport so the priority should be the people.”

Silimana’i refused to confirm that the management cut staff working hours when questioned by the Samoa Observer and instead asked for the identity of the worker.

“I cannot give out any comment based on what you’re telling me instead of that person’s identification,” he said.

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