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Minister concerned over loss of police officers to seasonal work overseas

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – 07 OCTOBER 2022: The Minister for Police & Prisons, Faualo Harry Schuster has raised concern over the loss of police officers to the Recognized Seasonal Employment workers scheme.

Faualo told Talamua that it is an issue that needs to be addressed because it is not just his ministry that is losing skilled staff but other fields as well.

He could not give an exact number of police officers who left the force for work under the scheme overseas, but 65 police recruits are currently undergoing 17 weeks of training before they graduate next month.

The same concern was raised by local businesses that have lost skilled manpower to the seasonal workers scheme and are facing the difficulty of finding local workers.

The Government is aware of the issues and temporarily suspended the scheme while a review was carried out by the Ministry in charge, MCIL. Cabinet also appointed a Sub-Committee to look into the concerns. Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa updated the media this week on the work of the committee.

“The objective is for the Cabinet sub-committee to continue with its review and advise Cabinet accordingly for an appropriate decision to satisfy all sides involved, and how the workers should be selected to avoid the concern by the Government and business sector of losing employees to the scheme,” said Fiame.

She referred to the original idea behind the scheme that targeted only the unemployed in Samoa.

“But there seems to be loopholes in the selection process that had created this problem,” said Fiame.

She said with the reopening of borders, businesses are operating full scale again, but they now face the problem of no employees.

“This is an issue Government needs to take up with the companies hiring workers so there has to be a solid foundation to please the parties involved,” she said.

Samoan workers on a farm under the RSE scheme.
Samoan workers on a farm under the RSE scheme.

Samoan workers on a farm under the RSE scheme.

Fiame also confirmed that Cabinet received the first review report by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (MCIL) which the RSE program is under.

“Cabinet did not reject the report, but they advised that there are so many issues that needed to be looked at before a final decision is made any policies are put in place,” she said.

Major issues involving Samoan workers under the scheme have been involved in major issues that range from their employment contracts to workers’ rights and health, accommodation and personal problems involving alcohol affecting their spouses and families back in Samoa. Australia and New Zealand have different policies in handling the program.

New Zealand is straight forward because it has a one Government body the program is under whereas Australia has Federal Governments and also states have their own policies.

1,666 workers approved for remaining months
Meanwhile, Cabinet has approved 1,666 workers for the next two months with 619 leaving this month and 1,047 for December.

“This is the season where workers are needed for picking fruits and vegetables for both Australia and New Zealand,” said Fiame.

Recently only one flight was allocated for seasonal workers for New Zealand and one for Australia per month. However, that has changed since the reopening of borders, and seasonal workers have to find seats as the rest of other passengers.

The Prime Minister admitted that the scheme is good as it has benefitted families especially during the COVID-19 lockdowns.