Ruta Tangiiau Mavé: Get expats working for their wage subsidies

Monday 31 August 2020 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Editorials

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Ruta Tangiiau Mavé: Get expats working for their wage subsidies
Cook Islanders should be the face of the Cook Islands experience – but should also be behind the scenes in management. 20083011

OPINION: Our priority must be for supporting locals who deserve it more, not holiday workers.

Giving credit where credit’s due, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown announced the extension of the wage subsidy until December.

While it’s appreciated, are we robbing Peter to pay Paul? Or, has the Government won Tatts Lotto?

The cash reserves have been redefined on how they’re distributed, so someone’s going to miss out somewhere, sometime, and I’m sure it won’t be the MPs.

The government subsidy is for local and imported employees to keep their jobs, so when the border opens, staff exist to cater for tourists.

But how many kite-surfing and diving instructors, or rugby players, do we really need on standby?

They receive $360 per week, cheap power, phone, and free access to qualified courses from building to management, while not having to work.

Their overall contribution to our economy is meagre, so who’s winning here? Not us.

They should be contributing to society in return. They came for a season that’s been and gone, this isn’t “home” and when it suits them best, they’ll leave, taking our invested time and money with them.

Admittedly, we have strong worker communities from other islands who contribute to our society with work, school and church, they’re like family, but they send most of their earnings elsewhere.

Meanwhile, our old and vulnerable got one measly $400 payment in April. Food packs are donated, but does this give them all they want and need?

Non-working wage subsidy receivers should line up daily at local punas and be assigned work to help our communities by cleaning yards and houses, fixing broken roofs and plumbing.

They could teach locals how to succeed them, clean the lagoon of Crown of Thorn starfish, remove rubbish from motu and beaches. Working in the agriculture fields would benefit our community, and justify paying them more than we pay pensioners.

Lots of locals are taking advantage of the free courses too, upskilling in health, beauty, massage, hospitality, admin, management and finance.

So, it makes sense they should be our new workforce in areas traditionally taken up by imports.

When tourists come to Cook Islands, they want a local experience, so we should provide it. If they want a Balinese massage they should go to Bali.

Tourism promotes us, the people, as an attraction, so tourists should have locals book their cultural shows, greet and seat them and serve as the manager, not only as onstage dancing.

We can and do perform well at all levels of the workplace but are often overlooked when it comes to promotion. If Government wants to stimulate the economy, they have to invest in promoting “our people come first”.

Some say locals are not reliable; agree, there are some. There are also loyal workers in the same workplace for decades.

We live in a tropical paradise, we’re lucky, compared to other countries, but we are vulnerable.

We will always need and benefit from overseas workers, but it’s time to reassess how many and work towards upskilling, protecting and promoting our own workforce.

Tourists are our lifeline, we, the people, are the point of difference from other tropical islands. Therefore, locals should be the majority of workers. If we’re deficient in standards of service and care, now is the time to train and explain because people realise jobs are important.

Our funds are limited, as is time for our elders, our priority focus should be on using what we have, for locals who deserve it more, than holiday workers.

Helping humanity with handouts is admirable for those trapped here, but to keep ourselves afloat, we need charity to begin at home, for those at home.