70% to close temporarily

Major construction disruptions noted in survey results

The CNMI could be facing a mass exodus of valuable foreign workers as the Sept. 30, 2019 deadline to submit CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program applications inches closer and only 1,485 worker extensions have so far been received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce noted that 70% of the 34 respondents reliant on CW-1 workers will have to close down operations temporarily should an exodus happen at the start of fiscal year 2020 this Oct. 1, 2019.

The Chamber noted that 26% of respondents would have to over-extend current staff to make up for the loss of manpower; 22% of respondents would have to limit business hours; and 9% of respondents would have to completely close down operations permanently.

One long-time business, Hollywood Video, will permanently close down its Garapan branch because of CW issues on Sept. 30, 2019. The video rental shop had been in business on Saipan since 1992.

Among other businesses in the CNMI, the Chamber noted disruptions in the community due to delays in CW renewals for those in the construction industry.

Some comments the Chamber compiled from respondents noted the business impact of the CW exodus. The organization did not name the companies.

“Renovation of private houses, businesses, or government offices that were damaged by Super Typhoon Yutu will be delayed,” the Chamber cited one of their respondents.

“We will not be able to supply the dearly needed typhoon damage repair building materials needed to rebuild the islands,” said another business according to the Chamber survey report.

The most impactful to the community included comments from a merchandiser of quarry products.

“[Our] ‘active projects’ completion will be delayed. Quarry products will not be available for sale. Heavy equipment and trucks will not be available for rent. Super Typhoon Yutu home repairs requiring quarry products, heavy equipment, and trucks will be delayed,” the Chamber noted in their survey report, citing what seemed to be a large construction company.

“We are the largest supplier of aggregates and ready-mix concrete for Saipan and we have paving operations for asphaltic concrete paving. Paving operations will completely close down without the experienced operators for road grader, compaction rollers in paving, paving spreader operator, and skilled labor for raking and leveling the asphalt,” the Chamber noted, citing another construction company.

Other respondents noted that the community impact of a CW exodus also affected necessary services in the CNMI, such as health care and education.

“A health provider noted that clients will have to wait longer in order receive care,” the Chamber noted citing a respondent. “A private school said they may have to close down some operations temporarily,” the organization noted citing another respondent.

Other inconveniences include a technology company servicing both the private sector and the public sector will not be able to receive contracted services such as computer maintenance and network repair, and a transportation company noted that they cannot function properly with so many workers leaving among multiple departments.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.
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