157 IPI workers in limbo

Posted on Nov 07 2019

Construction workers on Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s casino-hotel project in Garapan mill about in the lobby of the MH2 building in Puerto Rico, just before proceeding to the IPI project site to stage a protest. (BEA CABRERA)

Despite H2B visas that don’t expire until January 2020, a group of 157 Taiwanese construction workers are now claiming that their employer, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, is pressuring them to resign from their jobs, and they have no idea why.

Dismayed workers trooped to the U.S. Department of Labor office yesterday at the Marina Heights Business Park in Puerto Rico to plead their case, then walked over to the Imperial Pacific Resort & Hotel to stage a protest in front of the casino.

In an interview with Saipan Tribune, one of the workers, who asked not to be named, said that none of them have been paid their last paycheck yet, and that they intend to continue to protest until IPI provides them answers and compensation for this matter.

“Once IPI began hiring the new Mongolian workers, we were basically expendable to them and they decided to remove us with no cause,” one worker who didn’t want to identified said through a translator.

Saipan Tribune learned that the workers have been employed by IPI for about a year and a half, and their H2B visas will expire by the end of January 2020. The workers have not been terminated, but they said they are being forced not to report for work.

One worker claims that he has stopped working for over two weeks and has not been paid.

“We were told by IPI’s lawyer that workers who were under three-month contracts were going to be terminated, but we ended up joining them,” another worker said.

He described the work at the construction site as difficult as workers’ workloads have been doubled and others work overtime hours, while not being paid overtime wages, and were required to offset hours in order to meet the regular hour period.

There is also a claim that workers with certain specialties such as electrical and plumbing are being tasked to assist in other fields that are not their expertise.

In a contract shown Saipan Tribune, it states that they are to be provided housing, but the workers are now saying they are being forced to find their own housing around the island. Or they are being crammed into single housing units.

“We are being treated unfairly,” a worker said.

A representative of the protesting workers, with the assistance of a translator, said that they received a letter from IPI last Tuesday instructing them to resign from their jobs or there would be consequences if they were not to sign the resignation letter. Yesterday, the workers went to the U.S. Department of Labor to complain and were told that USDOL has already contacted IPI about the matter.

Another worker said that they have contacted an attorney to see the possibility of filing a lawsuit against IPI to get a severance package for the lost work hours.

Saipan Tribune tried to obtain comments from IPI about this but it gave no answers as of press time.

Marc Venus | Reporter
Marc Venus is the Saipan Tribune's public health and education reporter. He has an associate degree in Applied Sciences in Computer Applications and is working on his bachelor’s degree at the Northern Marianas College. Contact him at marc_venus@saipantribune.com.
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