Starting June, Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC will start repatriating 200 CNMI-Only Transitional Worker employees who are on the non-construction side, according to IPI interim chief executive officer Ray N. Yumul last Tuesday.
In an interview during a break in the House of Representatives Committee on Gaming’s meeting, Yumul also stated that under the U.S. Department of Labor’s settlement, IPI had agreed to make payments to all employees who have claims.
Except for one, all Mongolian workers have already left the CNMI and that the next batch to be repatriated will be 200 CW workers sometime this June, Yumul said.
He said they submitted petitions to renew the CW-1 last September, but they have not received any official response from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
CW-1 workers may continue employment with the same employer for up to 240 days beginning on the expiration of their authorized period of stay pending adjudication of the petition.
Yumul said he has already notified the CW workers that the 240-day period is set to expire on May 30, 2021, and that it is with “a heavy heart” to inform them that their employment with IPI will end on that day.
He said they anticipate USCIS not to act on the extension petition that IPI had filed on the CW workers’ behalf prior to the scheduled expiration date—hence “we have to start repatriating them by June.”
IPI informed the CW workers that prior to May 30, they will contact them to provide them information about their airline tickets and payroll.
He said the CW workers are currently on furlough.
One of the CW workers, who requested not to be identified, said they are willing to leave the CNMI if they are paid three-fourths of their wages as guaranteed in their employment contract. The worker estimates that IPI owes him $7,000.
As to IPI’s payment of owed wages to some former and furloughed guest workers, Yumul said that under the U.S. Department of Labor settlement, IPI cannot choose which ones would be paid first.
“I cannot pull out one group to pay and not be equal because it’s a scheduled payment. So they’re all going to be paid through the settlement,” he said.
The CEO said IPI did fail to make timely payments to the workers in the past, and all of that was corrected under the settlement. “Now there’s a settlement and within the settlement, it also includes the benefits,” Yumul said. “So all of that is already being dealt with.”
He said the settlement covers everybody that worked at IPI and has claims.
As to the issue of “stranded guest workers,” Yumul said it’s not that they’re stranded; they don’t want to leave because they are afraid that they might not get paid. “But they’ve been identified. U.S. Department of Labor knows who they are. We have their addresses,” he said.
Yumul said they don’t even want to hold the settlement money because they want to give it to the relevant governmental agency to make the payments for them.
“We don’t want to get caught up in being blamed for them, for example, not receiving the payments, because it’s already been memorialized in the [court] order,” he said.
Meanwhile, as to why the Commonwealth Casino Commission has yet to recognize him as IPI’s CEO, Yumul said it’s because IPI has not paid its casino regulatory fee of $3.1 million yet. He said CCC does not want to act on his application although he submitted all the relevant application and supporting documents.
“For me, it’s non-issue because the casino is not operating,” Yumul said.
Yumul attended Tuesday’s House Committee on Gaming meeting, but the committee did not call him to testify.