Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said on Sunday that he will tell U.S. Interior's Office of Insular Affairs Director Nik Pula this week that his administration is lifting the 16-hour work cut for some OIA-funded employees but only on a case-by-case basis and will not pay them for overtime work.
At the same time, Fitial decided to say “no” to the Judiciary's request to exempt employees from 64-hour work every two weeks.
The governor said the money that the Judiciary wanted to use to cover for the restoration of 80 hours is the savings from a current vacancy in the Superior Court. Fitial has yet to appoint a new justice in the upper court.
OIA's Pula is currently on island. He earlier said he will bring up with the governor once again Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta's request in January to exempt from austerity the employees that are working on OIA-funded programs such as the brown tree snake control program and the coral reef protection program.
Press secretary Angel Demapan said yesterday that Fitial and Pula have yet to meet on this issue. However, Fitial and Pula met on different occasions last week but on different functions and issues
Fitial said his administration has a “formula” on who to exempt or not from the austerity Fridays.
“That formula, if they are essential, then we will allow federal funds to be expended to pay regular, not overtime. In other words, if they worked 12 hours one date, we will pay eight hours regular and not four hours overtime but four hours regular,” Fitial said in an interview at the Republican Party of the CNMI Association kickoff rally in Susupe on Sunday.
The governor said it is not automatic restoration of 80 work hours biweekly for all of the OIA-funded employees.
He said employees working on brown tree snake control on Fridays, for example, will be allowed to work that day if really needed. But if there is no work that needs to be done on certain Fridays, then the government will not allow these program employees to report for work.
“Only on essentials. .We don't want to pay people 80 hours just so people get to the office and don't have anything to do,” he said. “Austerity is no-work Friday, so we don't want people to go to the office and pay electricity [for that]; only those that are essentials.”
Pula said Interior understands the Fitial administration's reasoning to keep morale high, but at the same time wants these important OIA-funded programs to be fully implemented in the CNMI.
Because of worsening financial problems, the governor subjected all executive departments and agencies to 16-hour work cuts per pay period, covering local and federally funded personnel. Only certain personnel at the departments of Public Safety and Corrections and the Emergency Management Office are exempted from the 16-hour work cuts.