80 workers lose jobs

‘US workers are priority hire’

The façade of the Imperial Pacific Resort in Garapan lights up the night sky.
(Jon Perez)

Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC is being criticized, this time for the alleged termination of the job contracts of 80 foreign workers who were brought in under temporary worker visas, or H-2B, and these individuals are looking for answers.

One of the workers, who were among the 80 who were given walking papers, posted last Friday a plea for legal advice and help on a social media page.

The post stated that IPI renewed their visas and gave them a contract extension from Sept. 1 to Jan. 30. “But now, they are giving us a termination papers effective Oct. 12.” The workers, all of them in construction, were helping build the Imperial Pacific Resort in Garapan.

In an email to Saipan Tribune, IPI said the reduction is based on the demand of the project. “The purpose of the reduction is to adjust the level of labor supply based on the demand of the construction project.”

“The adjustment is in line with effective workforce planning and efficiency improvement of the project.”

The statement added that IP is prioritizing the local and U.S. citizen workforce that were affected when they terminated the services of Guam-based contractor, Pacific Rim.

“IPI plans to hire local construction [workers] who are released by Pacific Rim to ensure their continued employment.”

The casino investor, in a previous statement, said they are committed to promoting U.S. employment to complete the project. [IPI] is committed toward the completion of its construction project to boost the local economy. IPI is proactively working with Pacific Rim in offering continued employment under IPI’s construction project.”

A source, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, told Saipan Tribune that the termination of the contracts of the foreign laborers were legal since they are conditional workers.

Saipan Tribune obtained a copy of the contract, which states that employees can be let go on the grounds of, among others, “serious misconduct, willful disobedience of employer’s lawful orders, habitual neglect of duties, absenteeism, insubordination, revealing secrets of establishment, when employee violates customs, traditions, and laws of the CNMI and/or terms of this contract.”

IPI, in the termination of employment, said the workers would be provided with seven days of salary for their accrued paid time off that would reflect in their final paycheck.

Open forum

Yesterday, over 50 IPI construction workers met with Rep. Edwin Propst (Ind-Saipan) and Tina Sablan, who was standing in for U.S. Delegate Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Ind-MP), at the Pentecostal Missionary Church of Christ chapel in San Jose to voice their concerns and seek answers to some of their questions through an open forum.

Propst reportedly plans to accompany them to the Department of Labor today. He also invited them to join tomorrow’s House session.

He said the termination of the workers’ contracts came as a surprise. “They want answers because this was so sudden. They explained to us that they were called in on Friday afternoon, one by one, and were served termination letters that they would only be given severance pay for seven days and they would be sent back home,” he said.

“They had contracts through January 2019. They were given no explanation as to why they were being terminated so suddenly or why all 80 H-2B workers terminated just happened to be Filipinos.

“It seems now that IPI got a two-and-a-half-year extension for completing the hotel casino project in Garapan, they have decided to lay off both local and H-2B workers. First, Pacific Rim lay off hundreds of workers the day the NMI Workforce Act of 2018 was signed by President Trump. And now we see massive terminations of H-2B workers by IPI.”

He questioned IPI’s ability to finish the project within the extension given to them by the CNMI Lottery Commission. “With all of these local and H-2B workers being laid off, are we really supposed to believe that IPI will complete the hotel casino construction project within 2.5 years?”

“These terminations of local and H-2B workers, the recent multiple resignations of high-ranking executives at IPI, and the termination of Pacific Rim are all telltale signs that the casino is having serious problems.”

Propst said IPI previously blamed the shortage of skilled labor for the delay in the completion of the multimillion dollar project. “So, what’s their excuse going to be now? Do we honestly believe that IPI is going to complete the casino hotel by their [new] construction deadline in 2021 after laying off hundreds of skilled workers?”

 Propst said that another one of their concerns is that IPI is allegedly already preparing to terminate the contracts of another 100 guest workers.

“Our big concern right now is that…there was no information whatsoever about this and they wanted to let them go quietly but once they started talking amongst themselves, they found out that there were 80 of them that were terminated and now we are hearing that IPI is ready to terminate another 100 workers in addition to this 80,” he said.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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