Kilili: Illegal labor practices could hurt NMI’s efforts

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (D-MP) said illegal labor practices by some companies, especially construction firms, could hurt the efforts being done by CNMI business and government leaders in trying to find a solution to an impending worker shortage.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, last month, uncovered that two construction companies, MCC International and Belinda Overseas, have allegedly employed Chinese laborers for the Imperial Pacific Resort project who entered Saipan as tourists.

The FBI made an arrest last March 30 based on their investigation that both companies allegedly violated the federal workplace visa system and other federal statutes. There are also reports the two construction firms harbored individuals who are out-of-status.

Sablan, in a lengthy Facebook post, said both business and government leaders have supported his bill—House Resolution 339—that would give a temporary fix to the ongoing CNMI-Only Transitional Worker nonimmigrant visa program, where an estimated 6,000 slots were applied to be filled in by construction workers.

“News such as this hurts our efforts and lessens the chance of [the United States] Congress granting necessary legislative relief. This is for the short fix. Wait until we seek a long-term fix,” said Sablan.

“Long-time businesses are hurt both short term and long term. Businesses which play by the rules, but were caught by surprise with the over 6,000 CW applications of some six construction companies.”

He said businesses that follow federal and local labor laws have all the reason to be concerned with the current situation. “Their law abiding labor practices are being jeopardized by unscrupulous businesses that will do anything, including the illegal hiring of foreign workers, for their selfish interest.”

“They are hurt by companies which apply for hundreds or one thousand permits, and do not use them. While we welcome investments to the [CNMI], we cannot tolerate the bad business and hiring practice of a few companies.”

Sablan said the CNMI’s chances of getting foreign workers that would help fill the shortage of personnel like in the hospital, health clinics, bakeries, power plant engineers and mechanics, cooks, bookkeepers, caregivers, teachers, and others would be hurt by the result of the said unlawful labor practice.

He added that getting some sort of relief from Congress is hard, but it could be more difficult this time with what’s happened. “Seeing these dishonest practices happening at this time makes it more difficult. The questions being asked by members of Congress, particularly from leadership of committees of jurisdiction, are straightforward.”

“What we see taking place at this time, even if it is caused by only one or two companies, could hurt the improvements we are seeing in our economy. We should know better than to allow the few favored companies to ruin our chances for everyone else. They have already caused the present shortage of CW permits.”

Sablan said allowing this illegal labor practice to continue, since some of these companies know someone who is in power, should no longer be tolerated. “Those who will get hurt will be the businesses who have done business above board, for decades even, and the people of the [CNMI].”

He added that he would not join those who protect these dishonest individuals. “Their practices of protecting the few are hurting the rest of the people who need third-country national workers. I will not give untrue statements when asked what is actually happening here in our islands.”

“Everyone else in our islands are good and decent people. And the unscrupulous acts of the handful of business and government leaders do not define who we are as a people; as a community. And I truthfully thought we have learned our lesson. Does Tinian Dynasty [Hotel & Casino] ring a bell?”

He said that there are former and current government employees that told him on how some government officials instruct them to approve contracts or permits that are more deserving of contempt rather than consent.

“With the exception of a handful of the powers that be, the rest of us are getting a bad deal and a bad name because a developer or three landed on our shores with every intention to do business in as loose a manner as they can until they are caught by authorities.”

“Such that self-respecting government employees who behave in a proper, respectable way in their performance of their duties, prefer resigning for their jobs rather than succumbing to orders from above.”

“Or knowing that the continued refusal to succumb to orders from above will lead to termination so that someone, anyone else almost, will replace them so that the documents supported by inferior work products are certain to be approved. Does the failed attempt to purchase a 10-megawatt engine ring a bell?”

Sablan appealed that this practice should stop. “Because in the end, the people that will be harmed the most are the good and decent people who call this Northern Mariana Islands home.”

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez has been covering local and international sports events for more than 15 years. His sports writing career started when he joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, when he was in college.

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