Worker issues in Samoa

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Dear Editor,

Re: Build things that count 

$2.30 an hour is low, but consider what sort of employees you get at the lower thresholds of pay. 

Usually we are talking young people not long out of school, looking for their first job, or older unskilled villagers because the rates are low outside of the urban areas.

In employing more than 40-50 people over the past 3-4 years in both my wife’s village based business and my country-wide business, I can attest that MOST Samoans in this earning range are not worth the pay they receive. In ALL cases, we have paid over the minimum, sometimes well over and also often reward with bonuses when appropriate.

Before I start, let it be known that my generalizations DO NOT apply to ALL Samoans, just the 40 or 50 I have been exposed to over the last few years as an employer. I keep moving forward in the naive hope that I will discover a rough diamond that wants to work hard and enjoy the rewards of their toil.

In my experience, unlike that I had back in Australia, most Young or Unskilled Samoans are not motivated by money and paying them more seems to quickly lead into lost Mondays, as they can afford to drop a days wages at the higher rate because they have enough.

Typical of my experience as an employer has been a demonstrated lack of commitment to the job, almost total lack of (sensible) initiative, inability to follow clear instructions and procedures, low or even damaging levels of customer service and the inevitable theft that once identified usually leads to the employee disappearing for good.

In the village environment, many employees come looking for a job when they need money, only to stop showing up without any notice once they have enough. More often than not, the following week reveals that items have gone missing from the shop or our home. Some even have the temerity to come looking for their old job again a month or two later when they need money again.

In my opinion, the Samoan attitude to work needs to be dramatically improved before employers can afford to pay a significantly higher minimum wage. The cost of lost productivity, constant retraining, low customer satisfaction and theft are too great for many employers to pay any more than $2.30 to $3.00 per hour. If I could get even 50% more productivity out of an employee I would happily pay them 50-100% more, but the reality is way short of this.

Nevertheless, I will keep looking for that Samoan rough diamond that I can train and polish to be a long-term gem of an employee. 

 

Kevin

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