Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC, which is building a casino in Garapan, has notified the seven remaining Chinese tourists that worked illegally for MCC International that it is terminating negotiations and humanitarian support for them.
IPI, which has provided food and shelter to the 38 workers hired by MCC, has notified the seven remaining workers that it would be stopping negotiations, humanitarian support, and coordination of their repatriation to China.
Metro Time (CNMI) LLC, the owner of the building that currently houses the workers, also issued them an eviction notice last Nov. 20, 2017, informing them that they would be evicted 30 days after.
IPI, through its attorney, Sean Frink, notified Qiang Li, of the decision. Li is one of the seven workers who refused to accept the offer IPI made for their repatriation. The letter, dated Nov. 20, 2017, added that IPI’s offer to pay Li the amount owed him according to the CNMI Department of Labor, would expire on Nov. 27, 2017, at 3pm.
“IPI has made repeated and good faith efforts to assist you in your situation, but your demands for payment beyond what CNMI DOL has determined you are owed before you will agree to return to China has caused IPI to determine that, effective immediately, it will no longer pay to house and feed you,” Frink wrote Li on behalf of IPI.
IPI has been supporting the workers, including providing them food and shelter, on humanitarian grounds, despite the lack of legal responsibility to do so.
Speaking through a translator, Li said he came to Saipan with a friend named Dong Guang Xin. According to Li, he and Dong worked together for MCC and started and ended at the same day.
Dong was reportedly part of a group that came to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor back in April 2017. According to Li, Dong was paid $18,800 cash to return to China, which reportedly included the amount he paid in recruitment fees.
IPI reportedly offered Li $5,129.68 in compensation for the time that he has worked under MCC. According to the translator, Li has been waiting on Saipan for eight months to be paid, including recruitment fees, liquidated damages, and fees for the months of delay. IPI made him an offer after consulting with CNMI DOL.
Li thinks he has been placed in an “unfair” situation. “I attached the lights outside of the casino with my own hands. This weekend, I saw all the famous movie stars and directors enjoying this casino. But I am still here eight months later, just waiting to be paid, with no food, no water. I feel it is very unfair,” said Li.
According to Frink’s letter, Li is asking for an additional $4,870.32, on top of the offered $5,129.68.
“You [Li] wanted [this amount] for unspecified and/or legally or factually unsupportable reasons and IPI refused to pay you this extra amount,” wrote Frink.
A lawyer familiar with the matter who refused to be named cited the Fair Labor Standards Act, which says an employee is entitled to additional liquidated damages when they are not paid on time.
“Federal law is very clear that when a worker is not paid the minimum wage or overtime required by law, the worker is then owed additional damages in the amount of 100 percent of the underpayment,” the lawyer said. “This is routinely part of settlements and regularly awarded by courts. If there were no penalty for failing to pay workers correctly the first time, employers would have no motivation to get it right. Having now waited eight months since their employment ended, these workers’ request for additional compensation has a well-founded legal and factual basis.”