The Department of Commerce is expected to complete a prevailing wage survey in the Commonwealth this March.
Alfonsis Sound, director of the department’s Central Statistics Division, confirmed that the wage survey was started on Jan. 12 with a completion target by the end of March.
The Central Statistics Division is spearheading the survey.
Sound, in a telephone interview, said the March deadline might still be affected by possible delays, such as businesses that might not send in their survey forms on time.
Sound said the survey is now 65 percent complete, with the remaining 35 percent of respondents (including businesses on Tinian and Rota) currently being “encouraged to participate in the survey.”
“Our enumerators are still out on the field conducting the survey,” Sound said.
March 11 was set as the deadline for Saipan, while March 18 and March 21 were the designated deadlines for Rota and Tinian, respectively.
”I am optimistic we can complete the survey by the designated target,” Sound said, adding that other stakeholders in the wage survey such as the Department of Labor and private groups like the Saipan Chamber of Commerce are eagerly awaiting the results of the survey.
The prevailing wage survey is needed to enable local businesses to successfully petition H1 visas for their employees, according to the Department of Commerce.
The U.S. Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs is funding the prevailing wage and workforce assessment study.
Among the questions that are being asked in the survey relate to job description, the going rate for that job, and the type of benefits received by the employee of that certain job.
Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Alex Sablan said that, unlike in 2013 when both the Chamber and Commerce conducted two separate surveys, the island’s biggest business organization this time would be depending on the government to do the prevailing wage and workforce assessment study by itself.
”It’s being conducted by the CNMI government as it should be. It should be a government function,” Sablan earlier said.
He said the CNMI developing its own prevailing wage study is important because using the prevailing wage in Guam “is unfair and detrimental to the local economy.”
“The wages for an H1 employee in the CNMI is segued to Guam’s prevailing wage, which is much, much higher. Our economy is different than Guam and the wage scale is different regardless of the situation. We have a different economy and we need to determine what scale we have so companies won’t inadvertently be impacted here with a scale that has no relevance,” the executive said.
Sablan said the only way the CNMI can have access to more H1 workers is for the prevailing wage and workforce assessment study to be conducted every two years as required by the federal government.