IPI says 7 illegally entered NMI

Any wage claims by the seven construction workers who are suing Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC and its two contractors are barred because they voluntarily illegally entered the CNMI to work, according to IPI.

In its answer to the seven workers’ lawsuit, IPI, through counsel Phillip J. Tydingco, said the plaintiffs knowingly and voluntarily worked illegally in the CNMI.

The plaintiffs—Tianming Wang, Dong Han, Yongjun Meng, Liangcai Sun, Youli Wang, Quingchun Xu, and Xiyang Du—are suing IPI, and contractors Gold Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC and MCC International over the injuries they suffered during accidents at the casino project worksite.

The plaintiffs, who are all Chinese nationals, are suing the defendants for alleged forced labor in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, forced labor in violation of the CNMI Anti-Trafficking Act, negligence, and liability for employees of subcontractor.

The workers alleged, among other things, that they were forced to work long hours for below minimum wage under extremely dangerous conditions at the casino-resort worksite.

In IPI’s answer and affirmative defenses to the lawsuit, Tydingco asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to rule that each of the plaintiffs take nothing in their complaint.

To the extent plaintiffs are deeded to be IPI employees or borrowed servants, their claim for negligence is barred because IPI possessed Workers Compensation Insurance. As such, the plaintiffs have not exhausted the administrative remedies available to them before the Commonwealth Workers Compensation Commission, Tydingco said.

He said the plaintiffs’ claims for forced labor are barred based on consent.

Tydingco said their negligence claim is “barred by contributory negligence of and/or assumption of the risk.”

With respect to other allegations, the lawyer said IPI lacks knowledge on the corporate structure and ownership of Gold Mantis.

He pointed out MCC was contracted to assist in the construction of IPI’s casino and hotel in Garapan and had the duties and obligations outlined in its contract and imposed by law.

Tydingco said IPI was aware that Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the contractors and subcontractors working on the hotel/casino complex and that a fire and a fatality occurred at the construction site on March 14, 2017 and March 22, 2017, respectively.

He said IPI admonished its contractors that they should always comply with all applicable federal and Commonwealth laws.

Tydingco said IPI then compensated workers who claimed that they had not received wages from certain contractors and subcontractors in 2017.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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