Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), who chairs the House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs, expressed concerns yesterday about delaying the seventh federally mandated 50-cent minimum wage increase since 2007. Under federal law, the CNMI minimum wage would increase to $6.55 an hour in October 2016, and will continue to increase by $0.50 every other year until it reaches the federal minimum wage level, which at this time is pegged at $7.25 an hour.
“The recent devastation brought about by Typhoon Soudelor caused extreme hardship on our people,” said Demapan. “This very hardship is further compounded for hard working individuals who are at the lesser level of the wage bracket.”
To point to the recent natural disaster as grounds for reprieve,
Demapan noted, should be the same reason to also discuss the compensation needs of individual employees.
“I am aware that Soudelor has also affected the activities and revenues of our business community, but this does not warrant turning our attention away from hardworking employees,” added Demapan. “I believe that the livelihood of employees should also be taken into account when analyzing the impact of wage increases.”
Demapan pointed out that despite the 2010 findings of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, much has changed in the economic landscape of the Commonwealth.
“Since then, we’ve seen increased economic activity and additional investments that are already in progress,” Demapan said. “These positive impacts give greater rise to embracing the scheduled wage increase in 2016.”
“It’s about equity and fairness to both employers and employees. Since 2007, employers knew that there would be gradual increases in $0.50 increments every other year,” said Demapan. “This schedule essentially allowed employers to be prepared ahead of time. On the contrary, an unforeseen move to suspend a scheduled increase does not offer the same courtesy to thousands of hard working employees.”
Nonetheless, Demapan noted that it is important to review new data so the government can update its analysis and take into account the economic impact from Typhoon Soudelor. However, he also noted that because of the U.S. Presidential declaration of a major disaster area here, it is important to keep in mind that millions of dollars in disaster assistance funds are now available to help businesses recoup losses sustained as a result of the typhoon. (PR)