‘A threat to the construction industry’

GPPC Inc. is one of the biggest construction companies here, yet even it is struggling to stay afloat when it comes to its workforce. The steep cuts made to the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program, of which most of the CNMI’s foreign workers fall, is only expected to worsen that.

According to GPPC construction manager Moises Tagle Jr., the impact of the cuts could result in the company’s shutdown on Saipan.

Tagle said that many of their workers who are categorized as skilled are mainly contract workers.

Many of these skilled workers—like heavy equipment operators and equipment operators, etc.—may be forced to leave the CNMI if they fail to obtain the required work visas. If that happens, there will be no other choice but for the company to shut down.

“We’re just going to leave all the equipment on the job site because there will be no one to operate them,” he said.

Tagle said that GPPC has been trying to hire more resident workers to cushion the blow if contract workers leave, but there aren’t that many residents who meet the qualification as skilled workers.

“The reality right now is that there is no one applying as skilled workers or as operators to fill the need,” he said.

According to Tagle, possibly 30 percent of his skilled construction workers are foreign workers.

The CW-1 cut has, in fact, already started taking its toll on many of GPPC’s contract workers. Tagle has observed that many of the foreign workers under his management are losing focus and drive when it comes to work because they fear the day when they may be required to pack up and leave.

That has not only been felt by the workers, but by the GPPC management as well, because they had to pull out from many projects and commitments made before the 3,000-slot cut was implemented.

“We already foresee that we won’t have the manpower to accommodate upcoming projects, so we just terminated the commitments made to several private and some public agencies,” he said.

There is a possibility of processing skilled workers under the H-2 visa program, Tagle said, but he is not too certain how long that would take and if this would still require workers to leave.

When asked if the 3,000-slot cut could threaten the development of the Commonwealth, Tagle said that he does not know about other aspects of the islands, but when it comes down to construction development, there will definitely be a large impact.

Kimberly Bautista Bautista
Kimberly Bautista is the youngest in the stable of Saipan Tribune reporters. She has covered a wide range of beats, including the community, housing, crime, and education, for the Saipan Tribune.

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