The Strategic Economic Development Council met Tuesday and discussed coming up with a “white paper” on the current state of issues on contract worker labor shortages amid the economic boom.
“Once we get all that, or before we get to that point we have to go out and tell the community what we are faced with. We are once again in a dire situation,” said council vice chair Marian Aldan-Pierce. “The private sector and public sector really need to work together and partner.”
“Everything—workers, infrastructure,” Pierce said when asked what data they needed. “The council wants to look at everything.”
“We need to present it to the governor and our delegate in Washington and go to the U.S. Congress because there are something things that we need that is going to take a Congressional act to change,” Aldan-Pierce said, acknowledging that this white paper would “inform” lobbying efforts in the Capitol.
According to the discussion agenda Tuesday, the council discussed a resolution to the contract worker issue and how to “validate CW numbers,” and how and when to hire a Washington, D.C. consultant with private and sector funds.
The council also discussed a “development cap.”
Council members acknowledged that this discussion would have to tie into government obligations and responsibilities like the over $100 million in land compensation and settlement claims, the $700 million in retiree settlement agreement, and the local utility’s court stipulated orders, in order to “responsibly” inform a “cap” on controlled developed, Saipan Tribune learned.
The cap could cover hotel room’s investors coming into the CNMI, and a cap on the use of public land, among others, Saipan Tribune learned.
Talks for a need of 15,000 to 35,000 workers in the CNMI reportedly have been broached to meet growing development demands.
The CNMI faces the expiration of its local contract worker program in 2019. These workers provide much of the labor force for the local economy and would need Congressional action to extend or replace with a new visa class catered to the CNMI’s needs.