More of the Same: Wage Theft in CNMI Continues

February 16, 2011

Nurses on Rota have not been paid since October 2010 and it appears that people are finally seeing this as a crisis, perhaps since the nurses are threatening to leave. Most people would have considered this a crisis the first month that the wages were not paid. It is certainly a crisis for the nurses. It certainly will pose a dangerous situation for Rota residents if the nurses decide that they have had enough and leave the health center unsatffed.  For months they have served the island's medical needs without pay!

The CNMI government and Rota Health Center owe the Saipan Employment Agency and Services, (SEAS) $119,000 for nursing services that have been provided from April to Sept. 2010, $51,000 for unpaid salaries from October 2010 to the present, and $43,000 for patients’ medical referrals to Saipan. Reportedly the $43,000 is for referral patients’ stay at the Paradise Hotel, which is owned by SEAS, the private manpower agency that hires Rota nurses. All in all, the CNMI government owes SEAS $213,000.

I do not understand why the Rota nurses that are employed at the government-run Rota Health Center aren't  hired directly by the CNMI government as the Saipan nurses are.  I also am confused as to why nurses on the different islands all working for government-run health centers appear to have such extreme differences in their salaries. The hourly wage range quoted in the papers is $4.55 to $9.20 for Rota nurses and up to $18 for those serving in Saipan. These are all terrible wages for such a desirable and essential skill!

Another question. Are there nurses who are being paid? Is it just the foreign nurses who are not being paid?

The Mayor of Rota, Melchor Mendiola and Rota Rep. Terisita Santos expressed gratitude to the nurses for working without pay for so long. Nurses on Rota don’t need gratitude; they need to be paid!

These nurses need to sue, collect their wages and apply for positions in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand or Canada. Nursing positions are available in these places. They will be paid a decent wage, which is far more than the salary they are earning (or should I say not earning) now. 

 The Saipan Tribune reported:
Rota nurses also experienced partial payments of their salaries in April last year. The partial payment is equivalent to the CNMI's minimum wage of $4.55 an hour at the time. The minimum wage increased to $5.05 an hour in September.

Rota nurses used to receive from SEAS an hourly salary of $8.93 to $9.20 an hour. Nurses who are directly hired by the government are paid $16 to $18 an hour, or more.

Tinian nurses previously employed by SEAS also endured payless paydays for months last year.
Where are the CNMI and U.S. officials and agencies that oversee hour and wage issues? Let me guess, the agency does not fall under some rule or threshold, or there is a loophole, or they have no money to investigate or act so the fact that foreign nurses are being cheated of wages is going to be ignored by those in power to assist.  Maybe it is time that the foreign governments that send the workers to the CNMI are notified of the treatment of their citizens so that they may file formal protests with the U.S. government.

The news of unpaid wages for professional serving in a CNMI agency highlights, once again, these untruthful words in the draft Senate Report:
The implication that the Commonwealth was a place of rampant labor abuse by a federal agency causes great anxiety. While there were instances of labor abuse, it was neither
systematic, commonplace or ignored.
You can never solve a problem by covering it up or denying that it exists. Those in power need to act immediately to correct this and other ongoing labor problems in the CNMI.

9 comments:

Captain said...

Millions approved by the NMI legislature to pay tour agents per head on the Japanese tourists that they can send the NMI, but no money to pay the professional health care workers' agency. (and at a very low rate)

BTW besides the places mentioned, that need nurses, Great Briton was also looking for thousands of nurses last year.(Manila Times)
Saudi Arabia also. (but that place has a very bad labor abuse record especially concerning females)

It is too bad that these nurses can't file a Fed lawsuit against the NMI Govt. because technically they work for the agency and not for the Govt.(or can they?)
That is probably why they do not get paid.
The agency needs to go to court against the govt.(again?)

I also thought that a while back these nurses were supposed to have been hired directly by the Govt?

Best these folks that do not get paid just stay home until they get their money.

the scribe said...

Rota doesn't have one person in the government that actually works. The whole island is based on free allotments for not producing anything. They brought foreign national farmers and maids, who don't get paid either by the way, to do all of the labor while everyone on Welfare Island draws food stamps. The have 360 days of sunshine per year and ample night rain but import oranges and grapefruit from Florida while their Senators and elected Reps. make huge money to represent and small number of people. Rota is fraud island.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 8:46

That's harsh to say the least. I know lots of hardworking people who live on Rota. I also know lots of people with productive farms. In fact, some of my favorite people anywhere live there -both residents and nonresidents. It's a beautiful island. The nurses need to be paid!

TAGLISH said...

This is really sad but this is not new. It’s been obviously happening. Idiotic, mindless people are those who are in the position to butt in and doing nothing. They are the people who should be experiencing this!
The $6M+ unpaid wages is not correct. Unreported abuses are not included of course. I know some people who want to go back home for good but can’t leave because they’re waiting to get paid! Ranging from $12K to $25K each!!! Some who reported such abuse didn’t get any justice, others were sent home with the promise from this employer to remit such back wages, others knowing that they might end up with the same fate opted to stay foot and wait. I really felt bad for them. It’s sweat and blood money! They worked hard for it! They’re deliverymen, heavy equipment operators, construction workers.
Federal law does not speak well for the employers here on CNMI, I say most of them if not all, local businessmen or even foreign investors have poor concept of doing business here. Welfare of employees is not even a concern to most employers here.

Anonymous said...

It is not the work ethic on Rota that is corrupt, but the distance they have from their parent companies that cause the trouble. Many Rota companies are "controlled" by management on Saipan and Guam. When one Rota person gets together with another Rota person it seems there is a barter that can take place with the goods of the parent company. I know this goes on. The problem is you don't want to hire a local to run your operation becuase this will happen to your company. It is also hard to impossible to find someone to move there and work for sunshine...and alone.
For instance, the CUC disconnects customers on Rota for non-pay. They have on-island folks that can do it, but they fly in other lineman, unannounced, from Saipan and they do the disconnects before any "funny business" can happen.
Not lazy, just a little corrupt island that has rationalized itself to this type of system.

Wendy said...

Hello Taglish

The CNMi government has repeatedly LIED and denied the fact that thousands of workers were cheated of millions of dollars and owed money -from DOL including Kaipat and Siemer, to the governor and now the legislature. You are correct. It is far more than $6.1 million if you count the thousands who left without being able to report their theft of wages, those too afraid to come forward and the thousands more that have been cheated since the documentation was collected in December 2008 and January 2009. It is a system that has made it IMPOSSIBLE for cheated workers to collect. They can't afford attorneys or to file in court. Even some attorneys have cheated them! The employers who STOLE the money are walking around free and clear. Imagine owing someone $2,500, or $20,000, or $25,000 and not going to JAIL! Some of the thieves are officials! it is time to take other measures to expose this and collect the money. Bringing this to the attention of Congress and DOI did nothing. Now it is time to contact human rights groups, the governments who sent the cheated workers, international organizations (UN High Commission on Human Rights) and the national and international press.

Wendy said...

I forgot to comment on what Taglish said about the welfare of employees. No, they do not care about the welfare of their employees, or about justice, laws or human rights. They have been allowed to ROB foreign workers for so long without consequences that they have become empowered to continue. Who among them -what other CROOK- has gone to jail for STEALING from foreign workers? Who has been made an example so it STOPS? The CROOKS who STEAL from their employees (and there are MANY) do not care about their WELFARE. They want them gone so they can't complain and they can get a new employee to abuse. At least the US law has stopped them from being able to deport them. But no one is helping them collect the unpaid wages so what use is it to stay?

Because for decades this has been the pattern and it is COMMON KNOWLEDGE in the the CNMI that this is how foreign workers are treated, good luck to any resident employees that ever replace the foreign workers. Let's see many thieves are prosecuted when they are ROBBING from U.S. citizens.

Wendy said...

I forgot to comment on what Taglish said about the welfare of employees. No, they do not care about the welfare of their employees, or about justice, laws or human rights. They have been allowed to ROB foreign workers for so long without consequences that they have become empowered to continue. Who among them -what other CROOK- has gone to jail for STEALING from foreign workers? Who has been made an example so it STOPS? The CROOKS who STEAL from their employees (and there are MANY) do not care about their WELFARE. They want them gone so they can't complain and they can get a new employee to abuse. At least the US law has stopped them from being able to deport them. But no one is helping them collect the unpaid wages so what use is it to stay?

Because for decades this has been the pattern and it is COMMON KNOWLEDGE in the the CNMI that this is how foreign workers are treated, good luck to any resident employees that ever replace the foreign workers. Let's see many thieves are prosecuted when they are ROBBING from U.S. citizens.

Anonymous said...

there is no local work ethic on rota. never has been, never will be.