Commerce to start prevailing wage survey in January


The much needed prevailing wage survey to enable local business to successfully petition H1 visas for their employees will finally be conducted next month, according to Department of Commerce acting secretary Mark Rabauliman.

He said U.S. Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs would be funding the prevailing wage and workforce assessment study.

“We’re able to get funding for the prevailing wage survey from the OIA. We will start the survey either the first or second week of January,” Rabauliman told Saipan Tribune.

The Central Statistics Division under director Alfonsis Sound has been assigned to spearhead the study.

“The OIA grand funding proposal’s timeline is for 60 days for enumerators to conduct the survey and we have eight people assigned to do the study on Saipan and two each for Tinian and Rota,” said Rabauliman.

Among the questions that will be asked in the survey will relate to job description, the going rate for that job, and the type of benefits received by the employee of that certain job.

“They’re finalizing the questionnaires and will accommodate the pending questions and uncertainties out there that people need to make sound decisions,” said the acting Commerce secretary.

Rabauliman has set a March deadline for CSD to submit the prevailing wage survey.

Chamber of Commerce president Alex Sablan, meanwhile, said that unlike in 2013 when both the Chamber and Commerce conducted two separate surveys, the islands’ biggest business organization this time would be depending on the government to do the prevailing wage and workforce assessment study by itself.

“It’s being conducted by the CNMI government as it should be. It should be a government function. OIA is funding the survey and they’re only funding one. We we’re going to fund one but when Commerce informed us they we’re going to conduct one, we thought why do two? We saw no reason to spend on two surveys which is going to accomplish the same thing,” he told Saipan Tribune.

Sablan said the CNMI developing its own prevailing wage study is important because using the prevailing wage in Guam is unfair and detrimental to the local economy.

“It’s crucial at a standpoint that we have a different economy here than that of Guam. The wages for an H1 employee in the CNMI is segued to Guam’s prevailing wage, which is much, much higher. Our economy is different than Guam and the wage scale is different regardless of the situation. We have a different economy and we need to determine what scale we have so companies won’t inadvertently be impacted here with a scale that has no relevance.”

The Chamber president said the only way the CNMI can have access to more H1 workers is for the prevailing wage and workforce assessment study to be conducted every two years as required by the federal government.

“It’s not that we don’t want to pay people more money. Hopefully that happens as the local economy improves. That’s the point behind a true prevailing wage being done. We can’t sustain it if we segue to the prevailing wages in Guam or Hawaii.”

The lack of an updated prevailing wage was one of the hot-button issues during last week’s Society for Human Resource Management CNMI Chapter’s 2014 Annual Conference.

Local companies argued that as much as they would want to apply H1 visas to their qualified employees, the lack of a prevailing wage study has stymied their efforts.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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