Workers to head overseas after Samoa lifts labour ban

PHOTO: Solomon Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Samoa’s Cabinet is set to resume sending off workers to the Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) scheme, which was suspended for all of January.

This was confirmed by Acting Prime Minister Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio, who said Cabinet has endorsed the continuation of the regional seasonal workers’ programme from February.

He said for this month, the RSE programme will resume under the existing arrangement with Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour (MCIL), and employers sending over 1200 workers to New Zealand and Australia.

He added that from March, the village councils in collaboration with district councils are set to determine the selection of participants to this programme, in partnership and with the usual coordination of the MCIL.

Tuala said this new policy, tabled with Cabinet this week, is addressing key areas which were of major concern over the years, such as the criteria for the selection of unskilled workers for the schemes, their terms of employment, including working conditions and period of overseas employment, as well as the strict observation of social, cultural and moral values.

The temporary ban on participating in seasonal worker schemes has impacted many workers hoping to go overseas and has been described as a “huge letdown” by one recruiter.

A New Zealand employer has expressed relief at the lifting of the suspension.

Yummy Fruit general manager Paul Paynter said they’re about 100 staff short in the packhouse and for picking.

“It’s a huge relief, labour is still very, very tight and the increase in the RSE numbers was critical to free up workers for other industries particularly hospitality, tourism which was starting to get going, and everybody is still really struggling to find people.” Paynter said there could still be some delays with visas being processed.

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