Commissioner says contractors hurting the CNMI
Imperial Pacific International CNMI LLC legal counsel Charles McDonald said canceling the contracts of several contractors and subcontractors working on the Imperial Pacific Resort is one of the options that they are looking at following several construction worker rallies the past few days.
MCC International and Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNM) LLC have allegedly used illegal workers at the construction site as some of them entered the CNMI as tourists.
IPI chair Mark A. Brown also made an earlier statement saying that they are willing to terminate contracts of several construction firms, which hired illegal workers, if they fail to follow federal and local laws.
McDonald, in yesterday’s meeting of the Commonwealth Casino Commission, informed everyone present that the recent turn of events had them again reaching out to contractors they hired to complete the casino hotel.
“There have been negative things that had happened on construction site, I know that you’re all aware of that. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) has executed search warrants to various contractors and subcontractors that led to six arrests,” said McDonald.
“The discovery of these undocumented workers on the site ultimately impacted the construction. We reached out to our contractors and subcontractors, and reinforced IPI’s practices of following local and federal laws and regulations.
McDonald said they are taking a proactive approach in addressing the situation. “IPI is really concerned on the actions of some of our contractors and subcontractors, and we don’t condone their activities. We are taking a more proactive approach in assuring all laws are followed.
“In our contracts, there are clauses that require all contractors to follow all laws (federal or local). We reminded those contractors of their obligations to IPI. We’re exploring all possibilities with our contractors, including termination of their contracts.”
He added that there is no clear direction which path IPI would take. “Termination sounds like ideal but at the same time there are other things that must be considered. For example the CW visa holders that they have, what will happen to them?”
“Given the difficulty in obtaining local labor force, those CW visa holders are valuable. We’re weighing all our actions and the necessity of completing the project on the decision to terminate the contracts. There’s no other direction yet.”
McDonald said the recent events have slowed down work at the construction site but they have not yet determined the extent of the impact. “Construction progress slowed down. We don’t know the extent of the delay. Right now, the remaining employees on site are focused in getting the casino open.”
He added opening the casino would change things. “That would be a big step and would renew investor confidence with IPI. We’re focused in opening the casino so we could tell everyone that we’re here to stay.”
CCC commissioner Alvaro Santos said that IPI should take action with what their contractors have been doing. “You have to tell them to follow provisions of the contract and force them to comply with laws. The march of the protestors reminds me of the days of the garment factory.”
“It hurts the reputation of the company and the government. In this case, they would blame IPI. This is a tiny community and words get around fast. If it’s bad, it is amplified. It is also on social media and it tarnishes the name of the licensee.”
He added that recent events also gave an opportunity for those people who are against the casino to take advantage of the situation. “The naysayers will have a party. It is an opportunity for them to further aggravate the situation. They would enjoy this. In the first place, they never supported the casino industry.”
“You [IPI] guys are hurting us. Don’t put out a façade that ‘we contracted them, that’s their responsibility.’ You must go further than that. It is a different environment here, than in Hong Kong or Macau.”
Santos said that the situation could also hurt the CNMI’s efforts on the issue of the CW1 visas. “You go to your contractors and subcontractors, and tell them that they need to get their acts together. You are hurting us and the CNMI government.”
“We are asking for an increase on the CW cap and also an extension. With this kind of negative publicity, it would harm the efforts that our officials are doing. You need to have a serious meeting with them [contractors and subcontractors].”
MCC International, meanwhile, issued a statement yesterday announcing they had already reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor that they are going to fully pay the wages and other compensation of all 189 workers. They will also be repatriated back to China.
“On a daily basis for more than a week, MCC Saipan has worked closely with representatives and attorneys of the U.S. Department of Labor to address the issues in an orderly way,” MCC said in the statement.
“In addition to these facts, MCC Saipan would like to inform the public that MCC Saipan is not affiliated in any way to Beilida Overseas (CNMI) Ltd. or Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNM) LLC.”
“MCC Saipan has no relationship, contractual or otherwise, with either of these companies. Recent statements and media reports that Beilida and Gold Mantis are subcontractors for MCC Saipan are incorrect and inaccurate.”
Gold Mantis workers rally anew
Construction workers brought in by Gold Mantis again held a protest, but this time they gathered in the construction site. All 80 workers hired by Gold Mantis were present in the protest.
Laborer Jiang Jinxu said their supervisors or any representative of the company had reportedly left Saipan a few days after having signed their payroll sheet.
They, however, did not sign two other documents—one that says that they have already received their salaries with the amount left blank and the another releasing their employer from any responsibility.
Last Tuesday, local Department of Labor officials, led by Secretary Edith Deleon Guerrero, met with and transported the workers that protested. They tried to move the workers to another housing with power and water but they declined since it was too far and they don’t know where the exact place is.
The workers also said that a Good Samaritan gave them $300 so they could buy food since they have not eaten since late Monday.