Samoa reviewing RSE scheme to protect its own economy

Samoa needs a "reality check" on how it participates in the recognised seasonal employer scheme (RSE) says the country's trade commissioner.

Va'atu'itu'i Apete Meredith said it was necessary for Samoa to ensure sending seasonal workers to New Zealand and Australia did not become an obstacle to its own economic development.

"Samoa has to take a reality check of how this scheme has been so successful that we need more equity or equitable distribution of the benefits," Va'atu'itu'i said at the RSE conference in Christchurch held this week.

In January this year, the Samoan government temporarily halted sending seasonal workers to New Zealand and Australia to the disappointment of both workers and growers.

One recruiter was concerned growers would look for workers from other Pacific nations.

The suspension was the result of the loss of domestic skilled labour, worker welfare concerns, and social issues such as extra-marital affairs.

"We have had a lot of adverse impacts on the productive sector with our businesses losing some of the skilled workers, but also there has been some adverse impacts slowly creeping into the rural sector as well," Va'atu'itu'i said.

The government was working on a new seasonal worker policy that was meant to be implemented in April of this year.

A government statement earlier in the year said the new policy would address skilled labour issues, working conditions, the period of overseas employment and the observation of social, cultural and moral values.

Va'atu'itu'i said although the completion of the policy by April was the intention, the government decided it was too important to make mistakes and has delayed its release.

He said the policy had been reviewed by Cabinet and was hopeful it would be released to the public in the next few weeks.

"We need it because the season starts again very soon."