Cabinet agrees to temporarily halt seasonal worker flights

By Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi 07 March 2022, 10:00AM

A recommendation by the Minister for Commerce Industry and Labour to temporarily "halt flight arrangements" for seasonal workers after March has been approved by the Cabinet.

This was confirmed by the Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, who is also looking after the Ministry that oversees the R.S.E. scheme in the absence of her Minister, Leatinu'u Wayne So'oialo who is in New Zealand for a medical checkup.

This means that the Cabinet has endorsed the halting of flights flying out seasonal workers from next month, until they address the issues that have been brought to their attention, in relation to the working conditions of participating Samoans. 

Speaking in an interview with the Government Press Secretariat over the weekend, Fiame said that the Cabinet needs to address some of the issues which had surfaced in relation to the scheme. 

"Cabinet had already approved flights to take our people overseas under the scheme for the months of February and March," said Fiame.

"However, there are some issues that have been brought to our attention in relation to this scheme that we need to look at first, before we can approve more flights. 

"Some of these issues include reports of some of our workers being mistreated overseas, while working under the scheme which prompted some of our people residing in Australia to step in and try to help them by setting up unions. 

"Our priority is our people working overseas on a temporary basis under this scheme, and we need to make sure that they are well taken care of."

Representatives from the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour in Australia are looking into allegations that Samoan seasonal workers along with other Pacific Islanders are being "treated as slaves."

"When sensitive issues as such arises, conversations needs to be made between the leaders of the two government," the Prime Minister said.

"This is because it took years of discussions between leaders of the two countries to finally agree on the implementation of this scheme."

Fiame then appealed to Samoans residing overseas to leave it to the respective officials to address the issue and to "follow through the proper channels" in addressing the issue. 

"While we appreciate the kind gesture by our people residing overseas for stepping in to assist our Seasonal workers, we ask that we leave these issues with the respective officials to deal with them," she said.

"When it comes to issues such as these, we shall follow the proper channel, especially when it comes to issues on international relations."

Moreover, the increase in Samoans flying out for seasonal work abroad is another concern which has been brought to the Government's attention, added Fiame. 

"Our business community as well as some Government Ministries have raised this issue, where we have employees leaving their jobs to go overseas for seasonal work opportunities. 

"The main objective of this scheme was to target our unemployed population and the increase in the numbers of employed people abandoning their jobs for the scheme, proves that there is a lapse in the selection criteria. 

"So we need to review and look into how we can address these issues first, before we can approve more flights for seasonal workers. 

The proposition by the Minister Leatinu'u was reported by the Samoa Observer last month when he submitted the report to Cabinet for its consideration. 

"I have put through a request and recommendation to Cabinet, if we can look at holding any more flight arrangements other than the ones we have approved for the months of January, February and March," Leatinu'u said at that time.

"Because we've already planned the flights for these three months, we cannot just cancel as there have been arrangements made with our people and New Zealand and Australia. 

"So we thought it would be best to proceed with the plans we have already approved for these months then we will look at an entire review of the scheme to address some of the issues that has been uncovered."

The Minister, whose Ministry oversees the seasonal workers programme, said that a review of the scheme in its entirety is necessary. 

This is in response to complaints by Samoan seasonal workers currently in Australia, alleging that they are being "treated like slaves" among various grievances. 

"The scheme needs to be review to address the issues that have come up," added Leatinu'u.

"One of the things we need to look into thoroughly are the complaints we have received and heard of being voiced by our men working overseas. 

Following the serious allegations raised by Samoan seasonal workers in Australia, Leatinu'u said they are taking the matter now into consideration. 

He also said there is a need to revamp the recruitment process for all seasonal workers and the agreements made between the two countries and Samoa. 

Cabinet has approved chartered flights to transport seasonal workers to New Zealand and Australia in March.

The first flight to Australia on 01 March 2022 will transport seasonal workers contracted to work for seven to nine months in Victoria.

The second flight will be on 07 March 2022, for seasonal workers contracted to work for three years in Queensland, Australia. Another flight to Victoria, Australia, is scheduled for 23 March 2022 for seasonal workers contracted to work for three years there.

However, the flight on 25 March 2022 will take seasonal workers to Australia who are contracted to work for seven to nine months in Queensland.

The first flight to New Zealand is scheduled for 8 March, 2022; this flight will transport R.S.E. workers to work in New Zealand for seven to nine months.

Another flight is scheduled for the 15 March, 2022: this flight will transport R.S.E. workers to work in New Zealand for seven to nine months.

Also, a flight has been scheduled on the 27 March, 2022 to transport R.S.E. workers to work in New Zealand for seven to nine months.

And the last flight for the month will be on the 29 March, 2022 which will transport R.S.E. workers to work for seven to nine months in New Zealand.

By Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi 07 March 2022, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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