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US Senate passes bill to delay minimum wage hikes

fili@samoanews.com

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni says the U.S. Senate, yesterday, passed by “Unanimous Consent” a Senate bill (S.2009), called the Insular Areas Act, which includes a provision to delay minimum wage increases in American Samoa until 2015.

“As S. 2009 now moves to the House for consideration, we’ll have to watch and wait because two other issues – the monitoring of Runit Island and clarifying the temporary assignment of judges to courts of the Freely Associated States – have been included in S. 2009,” said Faleomavaega in a news release yesterday to announce the latest minimum wage delay development.

“Consequently, it remains to be seen whether or not the House will agree to pass S. 2009 given these other provisions, but I will continue to keep our people updated as this matter progresses,” he said.

The federal bill was introduced Thursday by U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman  of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction for the U.S. territories and Freely Associated States.

Minimum wage hikes for American Samoa were delayed for 2010 and 2011 with the next scheduled wage hike set for September next year.

Faleomavaega has been working with his colleagues in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House to delay the next increase following the release in June this year, of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the impact of wage hikes on American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

“Our discussions in the House and Senate have been positive and, in principle, all parties support our request for wage delays given the importance of this issue to American Samoa’s economy which is a single-industry economy almost entirely dependent on the U.S. tuna fishing and processing industries,” he said.

Congress also knows that American Samoa has not fully recovered from a tsunami in 2009 and from the closure of the Chicken of the Sea facility which shut down its local operations one day after the first minimum wage hike and outsourced more than 2,000 jobs to Thailand.

“But even with this understanding, there are sensitivities surrounding the issue of minimum wage and I have been very cautious about releasing press updates and making radio announcements because I do not want to see American Samoa dragged into another national debate like occurred last time,” he added.

StarKist Co. president and chief executive officer In-Soo Cho told reporters last week at the StarKist Samoa plant that he has “great confidence that Congress will understand the requirement that we need to remain competitive in the worldwide tuna processing industry” and he expects another delay in the wage hikes.

Download full text of Eni's press statement below.

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Faleomavaega_minwage.update-12-16-11.pdf66.82 KB


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