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IPI up-to-date with payroll

Yumul says casino’s opening date is a moving target
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All of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC’s payroll issues have been resolved for now.

Meanwhile, IPI continues to face issues with repatriating its foreign workers as more and more continue to refuse efforts to make them leave for their home countries.

Commonwealth Casino Commission executive director Andrew Yeom informed the CCC commissioners at the board’s monthly meeting yesterday that IPI’s payroll delay has been resolved at the moment. Yeom said that IPI paid the payrolls for Jan. 1, 2021 to Feb. 12, 2021.

This developed as IPI chief executive officer Ray N. Yumul said yesterday that IPI has plans to reopen its casino but the opening date is a moving target.

Yeom said that, according to IPI Finance manager Frances Mafnas, all of the IPI’s outstanding payroll for last year, as well as the four payrolls for this year, has been disbursed and are all up to date.

Yumul echoed this, saying that IPI’s payroll is up-to-date as of last pay period number four.

Speaking at the public comments portion of the CCC meeting yesterday, Yumul said everyone would like to see IPI reopen soon so that it may pay its annual license, regulatory fees, pay the vendors, and settle all lawsuits, and most especially put people back to work.

“IPI needs to accomplish all these to be a business in good standing within the community,” Yumul said.

He said all indicators of a shuttered tourism industry is clear all around. “I myself don’t expect tourism travel to resume until the middle of next year,” he said.

He said IPI is not immune to the economic hardship the CNMI is facing.

He said the back wages and penalties due to the U.S. Department of Labor in connection with a lawsuit against IPI will not be satisfied directly via wire transfer funds and may not involve crane funds.

Repatriation

In IPI’s sixth status report with the U.S. District Court for the NMI, IPI lawyer Michael Dotts said that repatriation continues to be problematic. As of last Tuesday, four Thailand workers have been successfully repatriated but no new departures are scheduled, he said. This is because a few have refused to leave the island until they are paid their back wages, while others are looking at changing their status and travel restrictions in some places have yet to be lifted.

Of the six Malaysians remaining, one has applied to renew his CW visa status with IPI, and the other five do not want to depart until they are fully paid, Dotts said.

As for the remaining 11 Taiwanese workers, all have applied to change their status from H-2B to CNMI-Only Transitional Worker with a different employer.

The remaining 106 Mongolians have also applied to change their status from H-2B to CW-1 but Dotts said whether they are able to so or not is questionable. IPI is unable to repatriate the Mongolians because of travel restriction at this time anyhow.

The 11 Turkish employees who decided not to depart last week still remain on island. Two of the group’s members have outright refused repatriation.

Dotts also told the court that IPI’s payments for payroll are current with the next payday set for Feb. 26. Dotts said IPI believes it will be able to make payroll on time.

In addition, IPI employee housing still has power and food services continue without interruption for all H-2B workers.

“The closing of IPI housing is going slower than expected because of the problems with repatriation,” said Dotts.

The removal of Crane 4 at the IPI Resort Casino construction site has been completed.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, Finance Secretary David Atalig has asserted the CNMI’s lien as to all of the funds on deposit related to the crane and advised that he will be moving to intervene in the Superior Court action to enforce the lien.

Because of this, IPI will is unable to meet the court-mandated due date of March 1, 2021, to satisfy the consent judgment against it in the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor.

FERDIE DE LA TORRE and KIMBERLY A. BAUTISTA

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