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Lolo wants gov’t salaries reviewed and adjusted upward where warranted

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
He says these reviews should include benefits for contract workers

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has instructed his executive director Iulogologo Joseph Pereira and Attorney General Mitzie Jessop-Ta’ase to draft policy that would provide benefits — including retirement — to all government contract workers, no matter the length of the contract.

The governor’s instruction was made during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, where he pointed out that he has discovered that some employees who have been in government service for many years have not received appropriate review and salary increases.

Since last Saturday, he said that about 30 workers have showed up at his home with documents that show some of them holding the same salary level for many years but still getting the same pay without the director making the appropriate adjustment.

For example, the governor said he observed personally documents presented to him that show an employee with 27-years of service — and ready to retire — with the salary remaining the same at $14,000 to $15,000.

“The question is, why is this occurring?” he asked and answered himself saying the directors while doing his/ her job has left such matters to the people handling personnel matters.

Lolo said that starting Oct. 1st — which is the start of the new fiscal year 2021 — he and the lieutenant governor would take the necessary action to make the appropriate adjustments if the individual director doesn’t.

The governor also reminded directors that this administration has been able to raise the pay scale for workers and cited for example, the set threshold policy of starting salary for high school diploma holders at $12,000; Associates degree at $16,000; Bachelors degree at $23,000; and Masters degree at $27,000.

He said he expects these salary levels to be implemented before the current administration leaves office.

The governor mentioned that the Fono has raised questions as to why workers are converted from contract workers to career service in the executive branch. He says these are the types of questions the Fono asks when they have nothing else to ask about. “But it’s our responsibility — the responsibility of the director — to protect people’s jobs,” he said.

The governor then told cabinet members about a young man who died over the weekend but said he didn’t want to go into details of the incident. He said it was discovered from employment records that the young man was a contract worker, who didn’t have any benefits such as social security or retirement (referring to deductions). He said these are benefits that families depend on during such difficult times.

(Samoa News points out that contractors receiving from ASG a 1099 rather than a W-2 showing their yearly earnings are responsible by federal law for making their own social security payments.)

He said these are important benefits, which are made for the protection of employees. The governor noted that Human Resources and the Health department are not being blamed for this issue of no benefits. Instead, the governor said he blames himself and the lieutenant governor for not being aggressive in pushing such issues to protect all government employees.

The governor’s mention of DoH is a reference to the young man, who was a DoH employee, and died last Sunday morning in a car accident at Utusi’a — around the village of Fagaitua area on the Eastern side of Tutuila.  Several sources including those in government have told Samoa News that the deceased, Marquis Leauma, is a grand-nephew of the governor. (See story elsewhere in this issue.)

Lolo gave verbal instruction for Iulogologo and Jessop-Ta’ase to prepare an executive order establishing a policy for all contract employees — whether a one year contract, two year contract, or independent contract — to provide benefits to these government workers, who are Samoans, “our own people”.

The governor also called on ASG semi-autonomous agencies to implement similar benefits for their contract workers, saying that anyone brought in to work for the government should be provided all benefits.

No time frame was given by the governor on when Iulogologo and Jessop-Ta’ase are to provide a draft policy for the governor’s review.