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“Bring in new people” — instead of paying overtime, Lolo says

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
Records show ASG paying as much as $2,000 per person in overtime

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Instead of paying overtime — with some overtime payments as much as $2,000 per person — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga wants directors to “bring in new people” to work in ASG agencies, with the millions of dollars in federal money garnered by American Samoa since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Speaking at Sunday’s ASG coronavirus task force meeting, the governor said he depends on and trusts directors on their decisions when submitting time for those who carried out overtime work relating to the virus, as directors have to sign those documents.

However, he says there appears to be confusion occurring on hours worked and overtime and this is a recurring problem. He explained that whose working 40-hours a week and considered “essential workers” for each agency qualify for overtime.

“For those on a 20-hour workweek, there is no reason why there should be overtime submitted,” as seen in records presented for approval, he said.

The governor also says that if local borders are re-opened the Department of Public Safety will have a more difficult task in police enforcement duties and the reason approval was granted to hire 100 new people was “to ease the burden on the current force when it comes to enforcement.”

However, the governor points out that not even 50 have been hired.

“Bring people onboard,” he said, adding the Police Commissioner and Human Resources director should address this matter. “Find a way to bring new people on board and if it’s found later that they have a ‘bad record’ let them go and bring in new ones.”

He said this is the same message for all other ASG departments as well. “I’ve seen the numbers in overtime that have come in. Some overtime has reached $2,000, which is enough to hire 15 new workers,” he said.

“The goal is to hire more people, so that when all of this is done, money has reached the hands of those who do not have jobs,“ he said, noting that if the directors know his/ her operation is impacted due to the coronavirus, “bring on board people — you can justify” the new hires. (As previously reported by Samoa News the government can recruit new workers under the “emergency hire” due to the virus.)

According to the governor, there’s a lot of overtime submitted for approval while there are others in the community looking for jobs. “Make an effort to bring on board new people and share with them this money coming,” he said, and reiterated that there’s no reason why a person should be getting $2,000 in overtime when others need jobs.

Lolo said directors should not put a stop to opportunities that would provide jobs to the people in the community. He says the new workers can be employed using money that is paid as overtime to those who have worked long hours and need to rest.

For example, he said records show some work from 6a.m. to 12-midnight. — and this is not healthy for a worker, and suggested for directors to make the right decision by bringing on board new workers.

He also informed directors that they should find positions under the Governor’s Apprenticeship Program within their departments and agencies for local students returning with degrees.

“You have no choice but to put them to work and not to question what to do with these individuals. Train them and put them to work in your agency,” he said, and pointed out that by the time this pandemic is over, ASG should have employed new people and put money in the hands of those who need jobs now.