IPI furloughs over 500 employees


As of last Tuesday, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC has already furloughed 575 employees, including foreign workers, due to COVID-19 impact, according to IPI Human Resources director Redie Dela Cruz.

At the Commonwealth Casino Commission’s regular monthly meeting via video conference last Thursday, Dela Cruz said the closure of the casino prompted them to furlough a large number of their staff on the casino side.

In documents filed before the district court Thursday, IPI legal counsel Michael Dotts separately disclosed that IPI has furloughed about 585 employees in all due to COVID-19.

When asked about the discrepancy of the numbers of those furloughed, IPI senior vice president of public affairs Tao Xing said yesterday that this is so because it varies daily.

“If there is work, we pull people off furlough,” Xing said.

Dela Cruz said the casino has limited operation so they just keep employees to secure the facility and that those furloughed are considered non-essential employees.

As of last Thursday and not including H-2B workers, 42% of IPI’s employees are non-U.S. citizens and 58% are U.S. citizens, she said. Including H-2B workers, 62% are non-U.S. citizens and 38% are U.S. citizens, she added.

Also, as of last Thursday and not including H-2B workers, IPI has 701 employees, and with H-2B, 1,062, she said.

Dela Cruz said all recruitment efforts have been suspended due to COVID-19. That also means that they are not able to bring in skilled workers from outside the CNMI.

Dela Cruz said those furloughed have been informed that the furlough has been extended from May 10 to June 12.

She said they have already issued certification to all IPI employees who need that document when they submit application for unemployment to get federal benefits.

The director said that during their last meeting, the work hours schedule per pay period of non-exempt employees were reduced to 56 hours, then they also reduced the hours of exempt employees to 56 hours as well.

Dela Cruz said 123 employees have been reclassified now as non-exempt employees. “Ninety percent of our population are now non-exempt employees,” she added.

As to casino commissioner Joe Reyes’ question if IPI foresees more employees being furloughed, Dela Cruz said there is a strong possibility of that happening because the company has not been generating revenue since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Reyes asked who is making the decision to furlough anyone, CCC executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero said it is his understanding that there is an ad hoc committee with IPI that is supposed to be making that decision. However, with the absence of a chief executive officer, general counsel, and chief financial officer—who are all part of the ad hoc committee—Deleon Guerrero said this begs the question of who in the ad hoc committee is making the decision to furlough. Dela Cruz said she and senior vice president of public affairs Tao Xing have been appointed to the ad hoc committee.

When asked if CW workers have also been furloughed since they are hired via contract, Dela Cruz said yes and that they’re working with their legal department through this process.

Attorneys Kelley Butcher and Michael Dotts are with IPI’s legal department. Dotts also participated during Thursday’s meeting.

Deleon Guerreo asked if IPI has been making an effort to hire locals for construction considering many U.S. embassies’ suspension of H-2B visa interviews. Dela Cruz said all hiring in on freeze.

IPI has been struggling with the deadline to finish the casino-resort project in Garapan as U.S. embassies have suspended all ongoing H-2B visa interviews until further notice due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to IPI vice president of construction Eric Poon during the meeting.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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