Stall on Samoan seasonal worker scheme 'a huge letdown'

February 2, 2023 5:42 pm

Samoan RSE workers heading to Australia. [Source: RNZ]

Samoa’s temporary ban on participating in seasonal worker schemes has impacted many workers hoping to go overseas.

The country has put a temporary suspension on its people working in seasonal jobs in Australia and New Zealand until a review is presented to Cabinet.

Deputy Prime Minister, Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio, told Parliament last month New Zealand and Australia benefited more than the Samoan workers recruited under the schemes.

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“We care for our people’s well-being and how they are being exploited and not compensated well,” Tuala said.

A regional seasonal employment scheme sub-committee has been appointed by Cabinet to review the programmes. The suspension will remain in place until a review is presented to Cabinet.

Recruiter organisation, Falealili Seasonal Workers Programme, has been running for 17 years and sends over 600 Samoan workers overseas each season.

Founder Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale said the suspension had not been easy.

“Our partners have said: ‘….if you guys are going to continue with these restrictions at no notice at all, we will cut Samoa off, we’ll go to Vanuatu, we will go to Fiji, where there’s an abundance of people who are ready to take our place’,” Tuatagaloa said.

For the workers, he said it’s been a “huge letdown” and “embarrassment”.

“They’re in small communities and the whole village knows they’re preparing to go overseas, and there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation. And then they’re told they’re not going – you can imagine the disappointment.”

Tuatagaloa said it was “so unnecessary” for workers to be banned from travelling while the review was being conducted.

“We prepare, months in advance, we select and then we make placements.”

The suspension has been put in place following concerns the country’s labour workforce is being drained and reports of poor treatment of workers.