A U.S. Government Accountability Office team will be visiting Saipan, Tinian, and Rota next week to work on their report that will be delivered to the U.S. Congress on the impact of minimum wage increases under a 2007 federal law, even as a new U.S. law allowed the CNMI to skip another 50-cent increase this year and in 2015.
GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, has an April 2014 deadline to submit its report on the CNMI’s minimum wage hike impact.
The Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the largest business group in the CNMI, apprised its members of the GAO team’s Nov. 12 to 16 visit on the three islands.
Richard Pierce, Chamber executive director, said that GAO senior analyst for International Affairs and Trade Jonathan Fremont and Michael Simon will be conducting “pre-sent survey follow-up interviews and additional interviews with employer and employee groups.”
The Chamber has said that all increases in minimum wage, as it affects the cost of doing business in the CNMI, “should come as a result of solid empirical data as the GAO has been directed under the law to gather, not simply by the fact that P.L. 110-28 schedules a scale based upon a political decision.”
Under a 2007 federal law, the CNMI is required to increase its minimum wage by 50 cents annually until it reaches the federal wage floor of $7.25 an hour.
However, a newly signed law delayed the scheduled Sept. 30, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, minimum wage increase.
This means the CNMI’s minimum wage stays at $5.55 an hour until Sept. 30 next year.
The annual 50-cent hike was also delayed in 2011 under a separate law.
GAO prepared similar reports on the impact of minimum wage increases in 2010 and 2011. They are available at www.gao.gov.
The Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors will meet the GAO team on Nov. 13 in two separate meetings, at 2:30pm and 4pm, with other Chamber members who wish to discuss their opinions of future federal increases in wage rates in the CNMI.
GAO has already targeted employers who may have already received survey forms. These firms are primarily hotel and tour groups. The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands will have their members meet with GAO on Nov. 14.