Union defends Samoan employees

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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Samoa First Union representative Saina Tomi.

Samoa First Union representative Saina Tomi. (Photo: Twitter)

The Samoa First Union (S.F.U.) has leapt to the defense of local workers contrary to claims that companies are hiring foreign workers because Samoans are lazy, dishonest and unreliable.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Samoa First Union representative, Saina Tomi, says the attack on local workers was unfair and the viewpoints biased.

She referred to a recent article on Samoa Planet, which carried the views. 

Ms. Tomi said it really hurts to hear that employers believe that local Samoan employees are more likely to be dishonest and engage in too many fa’alavelave (obligations). 

She believes education is the key and teaching our local Samoans on how to budget their finances could deter such practices. 

She also points out that employers needed to communicate more openly on the guidelines or offer a workplace manual that informs employees of penalties and warnings they would receive if they skip work for a fa’alavelave.

In a letter that the S.F.U. has written in response to the claims, the Union asked: 

“Why were the employees not interviewed in response to give their views?" 

“Why employee representatives such as unions were not interviewed in response on behalf of local Samoa employees?" 

“With all due respect, the article is far more in favour of those in position of employers and business owners. It paints a picture of local Samoa employees as being not trustworthy or hardworking enough to be employable." 

“Was the intention behind the headline to ridicule local Samoa employees who many operate on a very low wage?" 

“If so, then how sad and condescending toward the employees, many of who earn very little income and are already struggling in a world of rising costs of living.”

The letter adds there could be underlying causes that could explain these behaviours by Samoan employees and that perhaps employers looking overseas for workers are seeking a “quick fix”. 

The worker’s Union maintains that it would be unfair to solely place the blame on local employees when the bigger picture needs to be addressed such as the ongoing argument for raising the minimum wage.

“The rise in living costs clearly shows that the minimum wage ought to be raised to match and to be converted into being a 'living wage'." 

"The fact that the minimum wage is so low, can affect work morale and work ethics amongst workers: this is particularly so for local Samoa employees who have many responsibilities including their families.”

The Samoa First Union also stated in their letter that they firmly believe that such statements about local Samoan workers are profit driven and not necessarily about helping local Samoan workers find or keep their jobs.

“We remind the article writer(s) that companies hiring foreign workers instead of local workers have the following as their main objective: to make profit. Not to employ local Samoans, not to help the Samoan economy, but to make a profit.

If, for example, a company hires a foreign worker for T$2.40 per hour, who would do the same amount of work as a local Samoan worker who is currently being paid T$3.40 per hour, which worker would the company hire? Logically they would hire the foreign worker for a cheaper, albeit legal wage.

“If a company took such action, would they really inform the media that they hire foreign workers because they are much cheaper and more profitable for their company? Of course not, as it would bring their goodwill and reputation into greedy disrepute.

Publicising reasons such as ‘the local Samoan employee was lazy, dishonest and had too many fa’alavelave’ would be more appropriate for the company as opposed to saying the foreign worker was cheap labour, so more profit for the company.”

According to S.F.U’s representative, Ms. Tomi, in her experience they have heard from Union members of extreme mistreatment such as unjustified dismissal over minor matters, in order for employers to quickly replace local Samoan workers with cheaper foreigner workers. She added they are happy to discuss with those who have similar concerns on a confidential basis.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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