American Samoa cannery to fire 200 workers
It blames layoffs on a 50-cent hike in the minimum wage
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa » The second largest tuna cannery in this U.S. territory says it will lay off more than 200 workers next month because of an initial 50-cent hike in the minimum wage.
The raise goes into effect July 24, with additional annual hikes of 50 cents a year until it reaches the new federal wage minimum of $7.25 per hour.
The company, COS Samoa Packing, "is disappointed" in the wage hikes. and "we expect to work with Congressman Eni H. Faleomavaega and the U.S. government to establish programs that offset this new minimum wage bill and that will make American Samoa competitive internationally," said Jim Davet, senior vice president of operations. Faleomavaega is American Samoa's nonvoting delegate to Congress.
Depending upon the type of job, current minimum wages in the territory range from $2.68 to $4.09 an hour. Workers at both COS Samoa, subsidiary of San Diego-based Chicken of the Sea International, and StarKist Samoa, owned by Del Monte Food Inc., currently earn a minimum of $3.26 an hour.
"We want to do right for our employees and the people of American Samoa, but the minimum wage hikes will not allow us to remain competitive and will cause cuts in employment," Davet said. "Short term, the initial 50-cent increase will result in a workforce reduction of just over 200 employees."
He said the company is already paying "five times the international wage to can tuna in American Samoa, and we will be paying six to 10 times the international wage as the new wage increase begins to take effect."
"We can conduct the same operations for significantly less in other parts of the world, but we want to continue trying to do what's best for the people of American Samoa," Davet added.
Any new federal measure to help the canneries should be amended to negate the impact of the wage hikes and to create a more favorable competitive position for businesses operating in American Samoa, he said.