Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Douglas A. Brennan encouraged businesses and business groups yesterday to participate in the CNMI government’s ongoing prevailing wage and workforce assessment study, a day after Chamber executive director Richard Pierce brought to the Department of Commerce’s attention alleged incidents where Commerce and CNMI Department of Labor enumerators would say that the Chamber’s prevailing wage survey and summary reports “were not as creditable as what the CNMI [government] will produce later this year.”
Commerce officials could not be reached for comment yesterday, an austerity Friday, but Pierce said that Commerce indicated to him that they would “canvas their enumerator staff and prevent such statements from being made in the future.”
Brennan urged the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Society for Human Resources Management and all other businesses in the CNMI to participate in the ongoing CNMI Department of Commerce 2011 CNMI Prevailing Wage and Workforce Assessment Study.
He said even though the Chamber completed its own prevailing wage survey some five months ago, there are other reasons to assist CNMI Commerce with its own version. The Chamber’s survey has already been accepted by the U.S. Department of Labor for determining prevailing wage rates for CNMI employers who are petitioning their employees for H-1B visas.
Brennan said any prevailing wage survey whose product is used by U.S. Labor is only good for up to two years.
“CNMI Commerce will overlap our work, and employers will have two summary reports to utilize for their petitions of USCIS and U.S. DOL’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification,” he said.
He also said that CNMI Commerce’s study is more than just a survey sample of employers’ employees and their wage rates in the CNMI.
“It is a study to attempt to cover the entire islands’ workforce. The Chamber’s prevailing wage survey sampled approximately 8,700 employees, while Commerce will try to cover over 20,000 job holders,” he added.
Pierce stressed the urgency of concluding a survey acceptable by U.S. DOL and USCIS.
He said employers were stuck having to use the prevailing wage rates in Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. mainland.
“This, combined with a deadline of Nov. 28, 2011, for submission of all CW-1 applications of USCIS, created a situation where businesses literally had to estimate labor costs without the benefit of knowing all variables in cost and budget projections,” he said in a statement.
Brennan said the Chamber just decided to forge ahead with its own survey.
“It was in everyone’s best interests to do so. SCC agreed at a Strategic Economic Development Council meeting in June of 2011 that if the CNMI government would assist SCC with its prevailing wage survey, SCC would assist in getting CNMI businesses to participate in the Commerce study in early 2012,” he said.
The Fitial administration earlier said that the Commerce study is a “census of prevailing wages paid to employees by all licensed businesses in the CNMI estimated to be close to or more than 2,000.” It “will also capture important information and demographics of the labor force including but not limited to, employee skills, citizenship, and ethnicity as of October 2011.”