Employees of the Commonwealth Health Center hired from off-island are no longer entitled to housing allowance after the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. announced the elimination of the benefit in the new contract of employees effective November.
However, corporation CEO Juan N. Babauta announced that salaries of affected employees will be adjusted starting next month as he decided to built-in the housing allowance portion of their employees' previous contracts into their monthly wages.
As part of the benefit package provided to off-island hires in the hospital, the then-Department of Health provided $600 monthly housing allowance to single employees, while $800 per month were given to those with families. Due to budget constraints, this benefit has been delayed for eight months now or from March through October.
In acknowledging the corporation's unpaid housing allowance to personnel, Babauta said the corporation remains committed in fulfilling its obligation once funding is identified for the purpose.
According to Babauta, he is finalizing how much percentage of the previous housing allowance will be built-in to the employees' salary. But he assured that the potential percentage is 50 percent or higher and will be enforced across-the-board in the spirit of fairness to all affected employees.
The CEO pointed out that the decision to eliminate the housing provision in employees' contract is due to the scarce resources of the corporation, which has made payroll and hospital supplies its top priorities. The decision is to make sure that employees are getting a portion of their previous housing benefit on a regular basis because it is now part of their salary.
The housing allowance of employees is issued during first week of each month through a separate check.
Yesterday, an 18-year CHC employee described the CEO's decision as a boost in the morale of employees. The employee said in these challenging times, the decision to built-in a portion of the housing allowance into employees' salary shows the corporation's commitment and care to its personnel.
A nurse for five years, meantime, is hopeful of the corporation's promise to pay-little by little-the unpaid housing allowance.
The board earlier voted to scrap the housing benefits for employees. The decision was recommended by the advisory board to the CEO, who makes the final determination.
Saipan Tribune learned that approximately $1.2 million is being spent by the hospital annually in providing housing perks to over 200 personnel, most of who are nurses hired from the Philippines.
A number of hospital staff temporarily stopped receiving their housing perks in 2009 as a result of declining government revenues and collections. Because of that a significant number of off-island hires left the CNMI and accepted positions in the U.S. mainland. Due to numerous resignations, the housing privilege was restored in consideration of the current staffing needs of the hospital.