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USDOL to set up local office beginning January 2014

The U.S. Labor Department will have a presence in American Samoa for three years beginning next year and will be working closely with ASG's Human Resources Department.


During Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Human Resources director Sonny Thompson revealed that USDOL will have a presence in the territory for three years, beginning in January 2014, and there’s already a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga on issues they have agreed to work on.


Thompson said it's important ASG fully comply with the Fair Labor Act dealing with employee compensation and it's important to have employees paid according to the law. He said failure to be in compliance with the law will result in "having to spend unnecessary time resolving complaints” with the federal government.


USDOL officials with the Wage and Hour Division were in the territory last week and met with Thompson along with directors and officials of ASG departments and other entities.  Thompson later told Samoa News that the MOU is to be signed soon by the governor.


Responding to Samoa News questions, the governor's executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira said that USDOL representatives informed Lolo during an exit meeting that the federal agency would be setting up their presence in the territory for three years “primarily to improve the capacity of businesses to comply with federal laws.”


“The Governor sees this as a blessing in disguise to Human Resources personnel who will work alongside USDOL officials and receive necessary training,” he said, adding that the presence of USDOL and its commitment to training “will elevate the human resource skills of government as well as private sector HR administrators and managers.”


During the cabinet meeting, the governor said he is thankful that USDOL will be here working alongside ASG.


However, he said that the federal agency is becoming “strong on issues that we’ve never heard before” and informed directors to “always tell the Labor Department that we do have local laws and they (USDOL) have to respect that.”


Lolo said, “Unless we don’t find local laws that govern a situation, then that will be a different story. But, every single move and action in this government is governed by some type of law… So please respect our laws and don’t give the federal government the opportunity to come down and tell us what to do.”


The governor pointed out that American Samoa has been “in the political process for over 100 years” and therefore the territory is “out of that stage, that we need to be told ”what’s right and what’s wrong.


“We have the intelligence, we have the capacity, and we have the potential to make our own decisions,” he said.