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Nov 11, 2007

Reforming CNMI

I know. I know. There have been several discussions about the Reform Bill, now enacted into law. Several nonresident workers are now scampering to seek answers to questions or vent to people about their concerns and questions.

Some of the questions are:

1. When is the effectivity of this law? When does it start? (January 2008)
2. So does that mean the three year period before the periodic exit starts also in January or those that meet the three year requirement would have to exit asap?
3. So when a nonresident that works for only one year with one employer, then does not renew his/her contract and plans to work for another company, does that mean that the three year counting will start all over?
4. What will happen when a company's most reliable employee, perhaps the head of a department, would have to exit and never return to work after six months, would the company be able to hire same skilled and trained employee from the CNMI?
5. What will happen to the Reform Law when the federal takeover of immigration system and labor happens?
6. What are the opinions of the business leaders here such as the members of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce on this issue? Should they make a public statement on this one too?
7. Under the current labor and immigration system, it takes at least six months to take a foreign worker to the CNMI. So, when the employee has to exit, the vacant position either should be filled by a resident, what if he/she does not qualify e.g. education background, experience et al? Would a company hire someone who doesn't know how to write on ledgers and balance accounts? What if it's a sensitive post where a company's assets and financial stability relies on?
8. Does the law only prohibit consensual transfer?

Let's help make others understand more about this law.


glend558 said...

So you answered the first question..What are the answers to the rest? Who knows them?
How many nails do they need to close this coffin?

The Writers said...

u tell me glen, u tell me...

lil_hammerhead said...

Good questions. I'm interested in the answers, but in the end, I believe the only real purpose of this bill is to make sure Filipinos and maybe other non-res workers can't claim they've resided here consitently for five or more years. That's it. It's a racist crumby bill. It's sad that there are actually folks who are "proud" to stand by it.

Long Vacation said...

#2. Yes, the period starts in January. So those firms who want to be "safe" if there is no federal takeover and the law is not repealed might want to begin scheduling 1/3 of its workforce annually for a six-month vacation.

Those firms with no money to waste, or a more risk-taking nature, or perhaps a more realistic evaluation of the future, may decide to hold tight.

#5. If there is a federal takeover, all CNMI immigration laws, and labor laws based on local immigration control (such as specifically applicable only to guest workers), will no longer be in effect once the federal "Transition Program" begins one or two years after enactment of the new law.

Rick Jones said...

It's funny, I hadn't really thought of it as racist until you mentioned it, I just thought it was stupid.

I'm not sure why our legislators can't see how this is going to hurt businesses here, particularly small ones.

saipanboonieman said...

i actually appreciate what this law is trying to do, and that's to try and make the local resident workforce a more competitive option than the contract worker pool. problem is, like rick said, there are small businesses like his that are gonna have a hard time with some of the provisions in the law.

i guess its not feasible for you to try out some local employees rick? not trying to pick on you or anything, just wondering if hiring locally wouldnt work out for you?

lil_hammerhead said...

The problem is boonieman.. it's coming right now, and it has provisions in it that are aimed directly at the long term workers. The Governor himself said that this law will help curb the ability of workers to get any special status under any future federal immigration actions.

If the legislature was serious, they should have come up with proper legislation a long time ago, they should have increased the minimum wage a long time ago and they should have facilitated training programs a long time ago.. they didn't.

rev said...

it would be a risk for both small and big businesses however you look at it. one can always try to hire a resident but eventually employers would hire more to cope with the disadvantages. Hiring more would mean more money going out. At this time of the economy, indeed it would be a risk. small business owners would not take that greater risk of jeopardizing their small businesses, thus they would hire adept employees.

Anonymous said...

The consensus among the people flown here are that the people grown here are worthless.

There is an easy way to be exempt from the new labor laws:

Hire only American citizens.

...but then you might have to pay a little bit more for that lady's drink.

glend558 said...

Boonieman: Ask rick if he had a choice of a guest worker or a local,all things being equal,reliability education, dependability , work ethic etc.. again, all things being equal who would he rather hire?

rev said...

"people grown here" are American citizens too Anonymous.

Long Vacation said...

From reading the totality of the commenent, it seems readily apparent that the poster was well aware of that.

L.V. said...

From the comment, too!

Pilgrim said...

Who will clean the toilets in my store for 6 months? Who will grow the cucumbers in my farm for 6 months? Who will be the nurse who takes care of my child for 6 months? Who will be the controller of my company taking care of all the money controls?

We will now have to hire 30-50% more than we need in order to cover our workload. If there are no locals available to to the work in the first place, where will the 50% come from? More contract workers. Not fewer.

Hey People!! Wake Up!!!

bradinthesand said...

"Would a company hire someone who doesn't know how to write on ledgers and balance accounts?"

why not? they hire people who can't write for the paper.


bradinthesand said...

ps-i think that everyone is missing the point here. the government really isn't racist even if some people are.

the guest worker program wasn't set up to make the cnmi a culturally diverse place with thousands of alien workers adding to a vibrant international community.

it has though, and i love this place for it.

that said, the guest worker program was put in place for the sole purpose of allowing for the cnmi's
economic growth.

there was no care to the guest workers raising families and laying down roots in the marianas.

why? because the plan was to get workers here, not citizens. that's it. the whole plan was for labor, plan and simple.

the governor knows that and the people who signed their contracts do too.

so now the governor is playing hardball. maybe the cnmi feels betrayed. maybe a bit stressed. maybe people are just unhappy with the impending loss of immigration control.

maybe the governor is taking matters into his own hands while the cnmi still has the chance to opportunity to do so.

i think the questions asked should be more like:

what will the guest worker organizations do when workers are not renewed and forcibly repatriated?

where will the cnmi find the money to repatriate the guest workers?

where will the cnmi government house the workers who are scheduled for repatriation?

will the cnmi charter direct flights to these countries or will propeller planes be bringing people to guam before returning them home?

won't that fill all of the flights to guam?

won't that raise the cost of tickets?

how long will it take?

will that provide the airlines with enough business to schedule more flights?

will that create more room for additional tourists to visit the cnmi and revive the economy?

if so, won't we need the workers back here again?

i love it!

so everyone should see this as a good thing!

the governor in all of his genius just created a plan to let everyone vacation for six months while jump starting the cnmi's economic engine, and ensuring their return, all with one wave of the pen.

he's the man!

now if he could only do something for the engines at the cuc!

saipanboonieman said...

lil, so because the remedy is long overdue the government shouldnt do anything about it? the government should just sit there and do nothing to fix the problems? that's kinda how we got into this mess in the first place, isn't it? by not doing what is needed to provide local residents a means to make a living. i agree with you that its long overdue, and to some may even seem to come off as a bit vindictive or whatever. but i still think that the action has to be taken, even if it is WAY overdue.

and to all the contract workers out there who may be reading this, i am not against any of you making a living, nor am i blaming any of you for the problems that our islands are facing. but this system in place here should never have been allowed businesses to be so dependent on a cheap unlimited work pool. the system was intended to supplement the workforce until the local workforce could educate itself to meet the needs of local businesses. unfortunately, the labor system was used by the various businesses on island as a way to sorta slave-drive employees.

saipanboonieman said...


im not sure what youre getting at, but i will be sure to ask rick that very question. i am actually very interested in hearing his answer.

saipanboonieman said...

okay rick, so,.....

if you "had a choice of a guest worker or a local,all things being equal,reliability education, dependability , work ethic etc.. again, all things being equal" who would you rather hire?

Me said...

What about this scenario:

Someone in authority does not like a particular business in the NMI. The company's workers are required to take 6-months off away from the NMI. The workers leave and their permit renewals are not processed, and no authorization to board an airplane is issued, in 6 months.

What does the company do? Will there be a "fixer" close enough to the Governor to get the permits processed on time? Is there a special document handling fee by private individuals (relatives and associates) for this? Are labor and immigration officials' relatives going to also be "fixers" for this types of situations?

The best, most equitable, process should be the Singapore model where if you want to hire, and retain a nonresident worker, you pay a special fee. If not, then you hire a resident worker. The difference is in the fee and if you think hiring nonresident workers is worthwhile to your company's bottom line, then pay the special tax and keep the nonresident worker.

I think the new labor law has merit if we can now all agree to administer it efficiently and enforce it fairly. Unfortunately, the fact that DOL has over 11,000 permits unprocessed at this time is very telling of efficiency (or the lack thereof) in that department. No offense intended but new management is sorely needed at the department, I think.

The argument that locals do not want to work is baseless (ask DFS, the banks, Joeten, Triple J, Hyatt Regency, etc.) Just pay them a decent wage and they will come to work. Not minimum wage, but a decent, living wage.

saipanboonieman said...

the underlying problem here, is societies were not meant to function the way this labor system has forced us to. we have a labor system that forces people into a quasi-caste system in which some are deemed to be worth more than others (contract workers are worth minimum wage, while local residents are worth whatever usually higher wage the goverment can provide them). and that hierarchial system of assigning worth has spilled over into other parts of our society: from who is worthy of owning land, to who is worthy of residency, to who is worthy of citizenship, to who is worthy of voting, etc. this has helped to perputuate the racist sentiments and government policies so pervasive here, and it will never end until we agree to put everyone on an equal footing. thats why the labor system has got to go or be "fixed", and the recent labor bill, IMHO, is a start in the right direction.

besides, like brad said, this may just be a genius way to jump-start the economy.

Me said...

I agree that the labor bill is a step in the right direction. Moreso if it will be efficiently administered and enforced.

Anonymous said...

Hey Me... does Joeten pay more than minimum wage to locals? News to me. The others you mention?

Pilgrim's questions are still unanswered. Where are the locals standing line for jobs to clean the bathrooms and till the fields? Do the bathrooms go uncleaned for 6 months while trying to find someone to clean them? Tomatoes go unpicked?

How about the finance manager who is on a 6 month forced vacation.. do we pay him/her? Will they simply to to Singapore or Saudi and work and never return, leaving a huge void in the company?

Those of you who have never tried to hire "locally" cannot know the problems that exist with finding qualified local talent, and keeping them for that matter. At any price. You mention companies such as Joeten-- go through Joeten and see who is doing the really hard work.. the grunt work. I'd also like to know the attrition rate for their minimum wage cashiers.

lil_hammerhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lil_hammerhead said...

Joeten is not a shining light as far as employers go. They have folks there who've worked seven years and are making $3.00+ an hour. Joeten should be a leader.. they're not.

bradinthesand said...

lay off joeten! what they lack in high wages they make up for in high prices...

rev said...

sand i agree with you. And to anonymous about being an employer, couldnt agree more.

Rick Jones said...

Absolutely, if I could hire a qualified local equal in all ways to a contract worker, I certainly would. Who wouldn't? Much easier without the labor department requirements, and you don't lock yourself into a year of a bad employee if they are not working out to your satisfaction.

My question is; Where is the local hiring pool? From what I understand, there are maybe 10,000 locals of working age here. 5,000 work for the government, and another 2-3000 for the big employers, i.e. Joeten, the Hotels, Non-government Airport jobs, DFS, Triple J, etc.

So that leaves say 2500 people left for everyone else, and I've got news for you, about half of them are the chronically unemployable, who either don't want to work or can't keep a job for whatever reason. No slur on locals, every population has that element in it's workforce.

Again, where is the labor pool, if you have maybe 1500-2000 people available for all the jobs that will be open once the government runs off the contract workers?

bradinthesand said...

...and what do you think of ron hodges' letter to the editor today?


me said...

Okay, so Joeten is not a stellar employer. No qualms there because I agree that they do not pay living wages to too many people.

I also agree with rick jones about the shortage in the labor pool.

However, we all need to start somewhere.

I graduated from a good west coast public university. I once tried to apply for work in a garment business and was told I needed to be interviewed by a person who will be working under me. What?

A hotel I sought a job in told me I needed to fluently speak/read/write Japanese. I do not think anyone in the company, Japanese included, was fluent in Japanese. Do they know that fluent really meant?

Then I was told I was over qualified by another prospective employer. I did not need the job, I just wanted to see for myself what was really going on.

There has got to be a middle ground here.

As for ron hodges, he is one angry person. I have never read (or heard him say) anything good about anything here. He did say he has extensive experience dealing the U.S. Congress. If writing letters to members of Congress is extensive experience, this person is out of his league.

Just my two cent piece.

glend558 said...

So boonieman did you get your answer? I could have told you what it would be. When the local workforce becones comparable to the guest workforce there will be no doubt who will get hired. So its not the employers, its the non availablity of skilled local employees.

saipanboonieman said...

yes glen, of course i got my answer. (and thank you rick btw.)

i understand that the resident labor pool may not be enough to meet the needs of businesses. but i also believe a big part of the reason few residents opted to work in the private sector now and in the past is because businesses had a plentiful supply of cheap immigrant labor and so didnt have to pay a livable wage.

again, i go back to what the intent of the bill is, and that is to address the well known shortcomings of the labor system. and although there are aspects of the bill i think are unfair and dont necessarily agree with, i do appreciate the intent. the labor system should never have been allowed to function as a crutch for businesses at the expense of residents' abilities to make a livable wage.

and has hodges flipped-out or something?

saipanboonieman said...

on another note glen, i think part of the reason the local labor pool has yet to "become comparable to the guest workforce" is because businesses never felt the need to provide the support and training necessary for the resident workforce. or maybe they just decieded it would be to their advantage not to train residents to a standard that would require a higher payscale than they could get away with with the guest workers.

either way, the regulations in the labor system that require an effort to train residents to eventually fill those jobs was never adequately enforced. correct me if you think im off on this, but i think that's what mostly responsible for the mess that we're in now.

glend558 said...

Boonieman, Lil and I had a indepth discussion on this issue in post 756 on my blog. Flip there and read the comments section, there were a lot of ideas tossed back and forth. Add some of your own if you like.

glend558 said...

boonieman, do you have a blog? give me your link if you do.

rev said...

well, the reform law has its greatest and excellent intention, however, we believe that the islands doesn't have to go back to basics where in fact so much have been going on already. Why not just work on what is existing right now, than go back to zero boonieman?

Boonieman has no blog, so he claims. peace ;-)

O. Calimbas said...

I think when we want to talk about the intent of the new law, we go straight to the source, and explicitly the main goal is to set up a two-tiered economy in which foreign workers serve as the "economic base" from which Commonwealth "citizens" can raise their standard of living. Jane Mack points this out in her latest post, and how the new law begins with a blatant deception that the Covenant "envisioned" this when it left immigration in local hands. She goes straight to the Covenant's legislative history to reveal that its purpose, in fact, is diametrically opposed to what the new law has in mind. The Covenant drafters were concerned that the CNMI would be flooded with foreign workers and thought local immigration could prevent that better than federal regulators.

Now, after absorbing that, we can take a fresh look at the law's provisions and understand why it can only perpetuate the current dilemma: it's a product of bad faith.

O. Calimbas said...

Oops, I probably should include Jane's site address: http://saipanwriter.blogspot.com/

saipanboonieman said...

will do that glen, thanks.

i havent really seen the need to start my own blog yet.

rev, man youre up late! dont you ever sleep? hmmmm.....

anyway, i agree that we dont have to go back to basics, and i wouldnt want to either. and all you guys are right that the intentions of the bill may be good, but the law itself is unfair. and im not so sure anymore if it'll really accomplish what they want it to.

lil_hammerhead said...

Boonieman- While I don't agree with this law the way it is written, because of its timing, and because it has a greater dark intent. I do agree with your statements about training the workforce and lack of incentives for locals to enter the private sector. If you were to permit businesses here to hire Pakistanis at $1.00 per hour.. what do you think will happen tomorrow.. locals and current non-res workers will be shit-out-of-luck. Businesses will immediately start hiring Pakistanis. Point is, the majority of businesses do not give a rat's ass about improving the community, developing the workforce or paying living wages.. they care about the bottom line. That is it.

rev said...

was a great night boonieman...;-)

lil is right about the timing and the dark intent. that is something that is "pretty-ugly" obvious. Even the Federal government is aware of this (so they said)

saipanboonieman said...

okay, so who's going to the "rally" this evening?

i think i'll go and film it to post on YouTube.......

Anonymous said...

Hey guys.. think about it. How much training does it take to teach someone how to sweep a floor, clean a toilet, plant a tomato? If nobody applies for the job, then what? Or if they work a week and quit, then what?

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