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Saturday, April 19, 2014

CNMI minimum wage hike to match federal level pushed

House floor leader Ralph Demapan (Cov-Saipan) will introduce today a bill raising the CNMI local minimum wage—still pegged at $3.05 an hour—“to match the federal minimum wage applicable to the CNMI” now at $5.55 an hour and is supposed to increase every-other-year until it reaches the federal wage floor of $7.25 an hour.

Demapan said the local wage of $3.05 an hour applies to residents and small businesses “not engaged in commerce” as defined by the Federal Labor Standards Act.

Right now, other job categories and classifications are not covered by the federal minimum wage applicable to the CNMI, including house workers and farmers.

This year, the federal minimum wage law applicable to the CNMI will increase by another 50 cents, bringing it to $6.05 an hour.

Demapan said the lower CNMI minimum wage results in salary inequality with employees doing the same job being paid different minimum wages.

“In order to have a uniform minimum wage, the Commonwealth minimum wage should be changed to match the federal minimum wage applicable in the [CNMI],” Demapan said in his House Bill 18-163.

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) earlier said nothing stops CNMI lawmakers from raising the local minimum wage.

He also told the Saipan Chamber of Commerce that there is nothing in the federal minimum wage law that says employers cannot pay more than the minimum.

The Chamber asked Sablan to have the 50-cent minimum wage increase delayed in 2013 through legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law on Sept. 18.

The same law that skipped the 2013 and 2015 minimum wage hike also conveyed to the CNMI 3 miles of submerged lands.

A 2007 U.S. law requires the federal minimum wage applicable to the CNMI to increase annually until it reaches the federal wage floor of $7.25 an hour. That law has been amended to skip the increase during certain years.

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