The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification has approved the first round of submissions for the CNMI Prevailing Wage Survey.
The first round is for jobs related to the tourism industry. That essentially signals to CNMI employers that they could now start applying for CW-1 permits for their foreign workers.
Gloria Cavanagh, president of the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, said they are very happy and satisfied with this development, considering that the PWS was expected to be finished at the end of this month.
“We have expedited the PWS, especially in the 84 categories in the tourism industry. The [PWS] typically is something like this takes months,” she said.
Completing the PWS in a short amount of time was a “great feat,” she said.
Those involved in the PWS project initially said that the data they have collected would be completed by the end of May. “Here we are, a week-and-a-half in May, and it is already out. So, we’re very happy. We’re satisfied,” she added.
Next up is for CNMI employers to apply for Temporary Labor Certifications for their foreign workers, and then on to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for CW-1 visas for their workers.
CNMI employers are required to get a TLC at the U.S. Labor Department; that TLC will be included when they submit their CW-1 petitions. The TLC is one of the requirements to employ a foreign worker in the CNMI.
Cavanagh said another batch of data is expected to be completed this week. “This is only the start. From my understanding, it is just the 84 [tourism] occupations first. The second round of the PWS will close on Friday and they will go back to U.S. Labor.”
She said the U.S. Labor Department had been helping the Commonwealth complete the PWS.
In the CNMI, the PWS was done in cooperation with the CNMI Commerce Department’s Central Statistics Division, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp.
Hive Analytics and DataTalks were tapped to collect the data needed to establish the Commonwealth’s prevailing wage.
Cavanagh said that they, local business leaders and other government officials, met with their federal counterparts in Washington, D.C. including those from the Labor Department’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification.
“They [FLC personnel] gave us pointers on how we can actually accomplish this [PWS]. They actually gave us ideas on how to do the PWS that doesn’t have to wait for 100 percent. That we can actually [do] it in segments,” Cavanagh told Saipan Tribune.
“The [local] Commerce Department and Hive Analytics have done an absolutely amazing job.
The U.S. Labor’s OFLC, which received the CNMI’s prevailing wage data last week, approved the first batch of information submitted for the PWS last Friday. An occupational wage survey must be conducted as required in the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018.
The CNMI must use its own PWS when Commonwealth employers hire foreign workers. Without the CNMI-specific PWS, Guam’s data would be used. That would result in higher wages being implemented in the CNMI.
The approved occupational wage survey would now be used in the process of granting either the renewal or new hire of guest worker petitions under the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) visa program.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres thanked U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta and OFLC acting deputy administrator Brian Pasternak for the expedited approval of the CNMI’s PWS, as well as the hard work of CNMI businesses in completing this first survey.
“This is a good thing for our economy and is a necessary part of ensuring we achieve economic growth and organic wage increases for our workers,” Torres said in a statement.
Chamber president Velma Palacios said the data presented works both ways, where some of the CNMI’s wages are higher than those of Guam, while some are lower. “We appreciated the opportunity like every municipality across the U.S., to submit our prevailing wage results to the OFLC.”
“We appreciated the extensive process the U.S. Labor Department undertook to ensure the survey methodology proposed by our contractors—Hive Analytics and Data Talks—along with local Commerce was approved before the data collection started, which we believe helped expedite OFLC’s approval for our first round of data submission.”
Data collection for the final round of the PWS are still ongoing; employers have until May 17, Friday, to submit their wage information.