With the suspension of several flights to the CNMI because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the drastic drop in the number of tourists, the Marianas Visitors Association board ordered yesterday a 16-hour cut in the work-hours of its employees, effective immediately.
The reduction of hours—from 80 hours to 64 hours—will begin on April 12.
MVA managing director Priscilla M. Iakopo initially asked the board for permission to close the MVA office every Friday but this was denied. Instead, MVA board vice chair Gloria Cavanagh proposed to have a designated day off for each staff.
“We never know when things happen and, to be able to serve our travel partners, we need to make sure that our office is open,” said Cavanagh.
Cavanagh stated that it would be better if one employee has an alternative day off on Monday, someone else on Wednesday, and so on, for the time being until the CNMI economy regains its footing. This means that each MVA staff will have a total of three days off, as approved by the board.
MVA chair Marian Aldan-Pierce suggested that a minimum of two people should stay at the MVA on Fridays for safety reasons.
Cavanagh said she understands why Friday would be a good day to set a day off as it would give employees an opportunity to seek part-time employment somewhere else, but she believes it’s important for MVA that its doors stay open five days a week.
In a later interview with Aldan-Pierce, she said that, on the positive side, they’re grateful that Skymark Airlines Inc. from Japan is continuing to fly to the CNMI, as well as other flights that haven’t been cancelled. “The positive side is that people are still coming to Saipan and are having a pleasant experience,” she added.
MVA board member Jerry Tan said that the biggest problem with the COVID-19 outbreak is that there is no timeline as to when this will be over, but he believes that this is just a temporary situation.
Tan has confidence that both the federal and local governments, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are on top of the situation.
“I think that the community should remain calm, and support each other during these trying times,” he said.
One of the affected employees, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said she is stressed because, in addition to the rent and regular bills to pay, she has a son who is in a private school. “It’s very hard because we have a budget to follow every week, so it’ll be very hard and it’s sad too,” she said.
Aldan-Pierce, who is president of Duty Free Saipan Ltd., also clarified that T Galleria has changed their store hours and have done some closure within the store but has not touched any of the employees’ hours yet, “so there’s still hope.”
DFS employees have been given the opportunity to take a leave without pay, so that employees could take advantage of a time like this and spend time with their loved ones. (With Krizel Tuazon)