‘Be patient, don’t lay off workers’

Saturday March 28, 2020 Written by Published in Local

Government is pleading with struggling businesses to keep their expat workers on the payroll.


The immigration department has instead suggested they send employees on leave without pay, while they await details of the government’s wage subsidy – part of the Covid-19 economic response plan.

Kairangi Samuela, the Principal Immigration Officer, said now was not the time to send people away but rather to see how we can support each other.

“We all recognise that a number of businesses across our economy have had to close because of the far reaching and sudden impacts domestically and globally of the coronavirus,” she said.

“We seek the patience of both employers of foreign workers and foreign workers.”

Fletcher Melvin, president of the Cook Islands Chamber of Commerce, said they totally agreed with Immigration.

“We are doing the same, we have been pushing for it and we have had some success in convincing some employers to hang on.”

Kairangi Samuela reiterated the importance of employer/employee contractual obligations, noting with the hold on passenger arrivals, Immigration staff would now be able to give some dedicated resources to working directly with expat workers and their employers.

Foreign Affairs and Immigration are also exploring amendments to work permit processing and fees conditions as part of governments support towards business continuity and workforce presentation.

It is intended some flexibility will be provided to extend permits, without fee implications through to at least May 24 to accommodate for extensive global border restrictions and in line with the roll out of government’s Covid-19 package. 

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