Labor chief: Businesses going ahead with plans

To expand hours, increase product lines

With U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s signing last week of a bill that extends the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program beyond 2019 and increases the CW cap limits for the fiscal year, several companies have indicated plans to proceed with ideas to expand business hours or increase their product lines and store inventory.

Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente disclosed over the weekend that several employers have signaled relief at the signing of the NMI U.S. Workforce Act of 2018, especially those in industries such as retail, food and beverage, and tourism/hospitality.

Benavente said Labor has been receiving many calls, mostly from the business community, about the procedures for this new CW law.

She said Labor is working closely with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to ensure that their recommendations on the interim final rules governing the implementation of this new CW extension law are communicated to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Benavente said they are seeking the implementation of these recommendations prior to Sept. 30, 2018.

“We will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure the intent of the law is upheld and that we can provide the services needed to sustain our islands’ economic progress,” she said.

Benavente said Labor is tracking working conditions, company training programs, job classifications, and other data, with the primary goal of providing a viable and vibrant labor market.

“We continue to focus on the training and development of our citizens so that they can enter the workforce and secure not just a job, but a lifelong career,” she said.

In working groups aligned with the CNMI business community and key government agencies such as the Public School System and Northern Marianas College, Benavente said that Labor will help job applicants obtain the skills to match an employer’s requirements for a job.

She said Labor has acknowledged the many challenges that businesses encounter with obtaining and retaining skilled workers.

Labor has encouraged all businesses to provide job training for employees and benefits to include continuing education, health insurance, and profit sharing programs.

“It can be a competitive environment for those who are seeking jobs and for businesses that are searching for good employees,” Benavente said.

The new CW law effectively raises the CW permit cap for fiscal year 2019 to 13,000. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services previously set the CW cap for fiscal year 2019 at 4,999.

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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