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Customs Officers petition EEO for overdue overtime

The never ending battle by Customs Agents for the overtime they claim they are entitled to, is now before the Equal Employment Opportunity Office. A petition signed by close to 30 Customs Officers regarding their overtime and comp time was sent to Sam Tinae, the EEO Officer, yesterday. The letter obtained by Samoa News, was titled “Overtime payments and Comp Time.”


“For the past several months the customs officers of the American Samoa Government have been working overtime servicing after hours flights, weekend flights, Saturdays at the post office as well as night time flights for Hawaiian Air, Pacific Airlines Cargo, Military flights, and private flights. We have also been working after house shifts for container vessels, fuel tankers, fishing vessels, and once in a while, a Lady Naomi.”


The Customs officers claim they have no idea how the hours are being calculated and what is being done with their overtime hours. “We have been told that the Human Resources Director is holding all over time and the Treasurer is not submitting their hours and that all directors are following the governor’s mandate on no more overtime."


Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga last year put his foot down and put an end to overtime incurred by government employees who work after hours servicing the airport on flight nights. He pointed out the issue of incurring exorbitant amounts of overtime by personnel servicing the flights after hours is a practice that should be abated right away.


Lolo noted the agencies working at the Airport — which are Customs, Port Administration and Agriculture — should hire part time employees, which would eliminate the over-time charges and provide opportunities of financial assistance to others in the community. He made it clear in his letter to the AG, Treasurer and Director of Agriculture, there will be no more overtime incurred.


According to the petition, the Customs officers say they are being forced to work extra hours and are not sure how they are being compensated. “We have been told by the treasurer that some employees are going to be paid over time, that some will receive comp time, and that we are all going to receive comp time at a rate of time and one half.”


The petition further states the confusion as to what the truth is, is "bringing down" the morale of the Customs officers.


The petitioners say they want a straightforward answer given as to the status of their overtime hours and a list of all the hours they have worked be submitted to each individual officer by the time keeper or Deputy Chief of Customs.


“For too long we have remained silent on the issue and have continued to work over our regular forty hours week, as well as eight hours per pay period,” says the petition.


Last week, the governor issued a stern warning about enforcing compensation and leave time statutes. “The report from the Treasurer on our accrued compensation liability attributed to the accumulation of annual leave, sick leave, and compensatory time has been very disconcerting,” said Lolo in a letter sent to his cabinet members last week.


He said to each director and agency head they must take “bold steps” to abate factors contributing to this financially crippling trend.


“I’m puzzled by the revelation that some of the employees have accumulated annual leave in excess of 1,000 hours along with compensatory time accumulation dating back to 1999. This puzzlement stems from the fact that there are existing compensation statutes that prevent an unreasonable accumulation of overtime, annual leave, sick leave and compensatory time,” the governor stated. Lolo pointed out that his administration has failed to enforce these laws and “it is time for strict enforcement.”


He further noted that each director and agency head is to take every step to review all existing annual leave, sick leave and compensatory time and come up with an appropriate strategy to reduce all accrued leave, while at the same time complying with the existing laws.


Lolo warned all excess annual leave, sick or compensatory time will not be carried beyond October 1, 2014.