Starkist to lay off 600 to 800 in American Samoa

by Eric Schroeder
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PITTSBURGH — Starkist Co. said it will lay off 600 to 800 workers at its American Samoa manufacturing facility over the next six months, citing increased global competitive pressures. Once the job cuts are completed, the facility’s work force will be less than 1,200 workers after totaling more than 3,000 in 2008.

“American Samoa is part of the StarKist family and we consider ourselves part of the American Samoan family,” said Don Binotto, president and chief executive officer. “This decision was not made lightly or without lengthy consideration of every option. We have exhausted every possibility to reduce our costs to remain competitive. Our competitors have been using a model that moves the labor-intensive fish cleaning process to low-wage countries. We have vigorously resisted this model, but it has become difficult to compete with wages nearly ten times those of Thailand and elsewhere, especially when combined with rising utility and shipping costs and the decreased value of duty protection.”

According to Starkist, the Pacific territory’s tuna industry has been adversely affected by a 2007 federal law mandating the same minimum wage laws that apply to the 50 states. In 2009, a Chicken of the Sea cannery in the region closed, citing the minimum wage law.

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean.

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