Government-wide austerity measures could not be avoided and are necessary to protect the jobs of hundreds of employees in the Executive Branch and keep the government running, according to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.
His administration’s latest move involves a 72-hour work schedule that starts in the June 23 pay period—an unpopular decision. That means no work for those in the Executive Branch every payday Friday.
“This is definitely the best one [decision],” Torres said. “[Employees] get the whole day off; at that point they will have to spend time with their families and do other things.”
He said that, before implementing the work hour cut, he consulted with his Cabinet members and talked to some in the private sector. “The private sector’s only concern is keeping Revenue and Taxation, and Treasury open; so, we’re giving them half-day operations.”
The administration reportedly needs about $3 million per pay period for the over 3,000 government employees in the Executive Branch.
If no work-hour reduction is implemented, the government will run out of funds by August, said press secretary Kevin Bautista in a separate interview.
Torres said the administration’s priority is keeping all of its personnel. “We wanted to make sure that no one is laid off. That’s the reason why we have this. And, if an eight-hour cut is what we need, then we will do that.”
He said Super Typhoon Yutu disrupted the CNMI’s economy, on the heels of a record-high gross domestic product and revenues. “You’ve seen our numbers. …We continue to monitor that. Looking at every number, every angle, and every option that we have, we’ve cut down our operations the last several months. It is still not enough for us to make sure that we don’t layoff anyone.”
Torres said his administration remains hopeful that things would improve before fiscal year 2019 ends. “We’re hopeful that it does get better. We’re hoping for that.
Torres’ directive will have all agencies and departments under his office closing every payday Friday, starting on July 5 and until further notice.
The Office of Personnel Management will apply the new work schedule to all locally- and federally-funded government employees—in civil service and excepted service in the Executive Branch.
First responders, law enforcement, treasury cashiers, and other employees with critical government functions will also have a modified 72-hour work schedule to keep needed public services functioning. The directive also includes no accrual and overtime payment, and compensatory time hours, and no new hiring for locally funded positions under the Executive Branch.