Loss of key workers feared


An internal survey that the Saipan Chamber of Commerce did among its members showed that nearly 90% of employees that businesses fear may be forced to temporarily exit the CNMI due to CW petition troubles are “key employees.”

Of the 54 who responded to the survey, only 20 employers do not rely on CW workers. That means 34 rely on CW workers and these comprises a total of 637 CW renewal petitions.

Of the 637 petitions, 332 applicants, or 52% of applications, are expected to not make the Sept. 30, 2019 deadline; 89% of the 332 applicants are described as “key employees.”

Majority of the companies that will be heavily affected are in the construction industry and any disruption to the availability of these skilled workers is projected to impact not just building projects but also the rebuilding efforts after Super Typhoon Yutu.

“The CW renewal process has had the most impact on our small businesses and those in specialized trades, including health, technology, and construction professions. These CW renewals that are impacted mostly include ‘key employees,’ or positions that cannot easily be replaced with available workers on Saipan and that the profession of that employee was essential for operation,” the Chamber noted.

“For employers who responded, they noted that 89% of the applicants they feared would not make the Sept. 30, 2019 deadline were ‘key employees,’” the Chamber further noted.

The survey also revealed that 50% of respondents have five CW workers or less. Approximately 80% had less than 20 CW workers.

“This shows that most of respondents are small businesses or those that rely less on foreign labor as a whole,” the Chamber noted.

While processing times for the CW renewal petitions were problematic at first, the Chamber recognized that the U.S. Department of Labor had been effective in ramping up the processing times for the requirements for CW petition renewals as of late.

“We thank the USDOL for the speed in processing to ensure more key employees will not have to leave [the islands] before Sept. 30, 2019,” the Chamber noted.

“However, there are a significant number of ‘key employees’ that employers fear will have to exodus before Sept. 30, 2019. This will cause delays in providing key services to clients customers, private agencies, and government contracts,” the Chamber noted.

The CNMI has only 12,500 slots for CW slots in fiscal year 2020.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.
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