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Starkist report: 900 workers added to local operations

Gov. Togiola Tulafono says StarKist Samoa has not only increased production it has also increased the company’s local workforce, which means more financial support for families in American Samoa, boosting the local economy.

The Pittsburgh-based StarKist Company first announced in May of 2010 plans to lay off between 600 to 800 workers at its plant in American Samoa citing, among other things, increased global competition and rising cost of operations.

These reductions took the company’s territorial employment from its high of more than 3,000 in 2008 to less than 1,200 workers, Samoa News reported in 2010.  Phase one of the lay offs were implemented in August of 2010 but last year, the company told the governor, and also at a separate news conference, that they were slowing hiring back workers as production started to increase.

Speaking on this weekend radio program, Togiola revealed that there was a visit by StarKist officials to the territory and they provided him an update on the company’s operations  and future plans.

“The great news” from the company, said Togiola, is that production at StarKist Samoa continues to increase and several times, production has been six days a week with more workers being recruited.

As of more than a week ago, there are now some 2,100 people working at the Atu’u-based cannery, compared to about 1,200 workers some two years ago, said Togiola.

“This means an additional 900 jobs have been provided by StarKist for American Samoa and this is a big increase in the number of new jobs,” said Togiola. “This hike in jobs means more money going to the families of local residents, as well as more money going into our local economy.”

Togiola thanked StarKist for their contribution to the territory, saying that the goal is for the canneries to be successful in American Samoa and the government will do all it can to help the canneries.

Because it was the weekend, StarKist company spokesperson Mary Sestric didn’t immediately reply to Samoa News request for comments regarding the governor’s announcement.

The governor didn’t provide any updates on the proposed StarKist storage freezer facility to be located in the main dock area.

Meanwhile, industry news provider, reported last week that South Korean-based Dongwon Industries - owner of StarKist Co. and StarKist Samoa - has moved to end employment of several executives at the StarKist headquarters in Pittsburgh.

Among those who left were Melissa Murphy, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs; and  Pat Moody, who was Senior Vice President of Supply Chain - both of them have visited the territory a few times and taken part in local media briefings.

Intrafish says a company spokeswoman confirmed “the individuals you mentioned are no longer with the company as StarKist continues to make strategic changes to better align and leverage Dongwon’s expertise and streamline the organization.”.