Yazaki to shut, more than 700 to be jobless

By Lanuola Tupufia – Ah Tong ,

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NOT A HAPPY TIME: General Manager, Mr. Munenori Yamada, YES President. Mr Graig O'donohue and Funefeai Olive Va'ai.

NOT A HAPPY TIME: General Manager, Mr. Munenori Yamada, YES President. Mr Graig O'donohue and Funefeai Olive Va'ai.

It’s official. More than 700 employees of the country’s biggest employer in the private sector will soon find themselves without jobs following an announcement made by the company last night. 

Yazaki Eds Samoa is set to be officially shut by the end of 2017.

The announcement was made during a press conference called by Executives of the company at its Vaitele headquarters. 

Y.E.S. Branding Division Manager in Japan, Yoko Yamada, said the closure is due to the car manufacturing industry in Australia winding down.

Over the years, Yazaki has been supplying products to the Australian automotive market but the latest developments in the market there have had a “knock on impact here,” forcing the company to re-evaluate the viability of their operation in Samoa. 

“As a result we have been trying to identify other alternatives for this operation. Unfortunately we have not been able to identify anything viable and must therefore announce that we will phase out production operations in Samoa.”

Mr. Yamada said the company fully understands this is a difficult situation for their employees and their families. But they are committed to provide support where they can to make the transition smooth.

 “We intend to provide as much support for them as possible,” he added. 

The 740 employees of Y.E.S. were yesterday informed about the decision.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi had also met with representatives of the company about the announcement they made yesterday. 

 Y.E.S. President, Craig O’Donohue said the situation is difficult and the company does not know exactly when it will officially close. 

 “I think you would understand that last Friday was the last production order for Ford Motor Cars in Australia and this is the start of what we are calling the winding down of Australian car operation. This is likely to continue in Australia until the end of 2017 but we have no idea exactly when.”

About the employees, the President assured they would be given the necessary support. The support includes up-skilling, re-skilling, life skill training and opportunities offshore. 

Mr. O’Donohue said they would engage every employee to ask them what they want and what they expect from the company on a plan that suits them. 

 As for the packages, he said the factory people would be given lump sum for their service. 

“We cannot afford to have too much disruption in our production and continue in a motivated and supportive way,” he said. 

Y.E.S. General Manager, Funefeai Oliva Vaai explained that an employee would be paid nine weeks minimum and up to 57 weeks maximum. 

What that means is that if a person is paid $130tala a week, multiplied that by minimum of 9 weeks the employee will get a lump sum of $1170.

Employees who resign will not be entitled to the redundancy packages.

Before the company decided to close down the other alternatives it looked at was the production of flour from breadfruit tree. 

According to the Mr. O’Donohue when the car company first announced closure of their manufacturing operation in Australia Y.E.S. immediately at the time engaged in discussion with the government of Samoa and other options outside the comfort zone of the company. 

“We had about eight key programmes anything from tourism to shipping, agriculture, textiles,” he recalled. 

“We put together a crazy summary of business opportunities. We looked strongly at breadfruit opportunities to make flour. There have been a lot of research done in that area and also agriculture, but that project is quite foreign to Yazaki operation. Yazaki has some experience with agriculture and was interest in that but with those we just couldn’t find a viable business.”

The President added one of the worst things for them is to start something and make a mess of it. “And that is why decided we could not continue on,” he said.  

 This year, Yazaki celebrated 25 years of activities in Samoa.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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