October 20, 2012
Most CNMI foreign workers experience routine wage theft and their employers seldom, if ever, face consequences or pay them what they are owed.
The government hospital cannot meet payroll, owes the foreign contract workers months of housing allowances. The Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CUC) has been placed on immediate Jeopardy Status for numerous violations and risks losing federal funding.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) fails to thoroughly investigate burglaries, assaults, rapes and murders. In recent months, high ranking DPS officials have appeared to be as involved in breaking the law as in enforcing the law. Anyone would be risking their safety in accepting a position in the CNMI at this time.
It was no surprise that the Philippine Government's Department of Labor and Employment has issued an advisory warning medical personnel against applying for jobs in the CNMI. Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz cites "dire economic conditions" and warned that the Commonwealth Health Corporation "may not have the financial capacity to meet the payroll needs of new medical employees."
The DOLE report cited an August 21, 2012 report from the Philippine Consulate as the basis of the warning.
Filipino nurses on Rota, Tinian and Saipan have been cheated of wages for over three years, so this warning was predictable.
Expect more warnings and even bans from other countries. In fact, it would not be surprising if in the near future the CNMI finds itself unable to recruit any new foreign workers. The deplorable working conditions, corrupt government, critical economic conditions, extremely high cost of living, useless law enforcement agency and flawed CNMI-Only Guest Worker Program likely makes the CNMI a last choice destination for most foreign workers.
It is time that the CNMI government take action to push for permanent residency for the remaining long-term foreign workers in the islands before a serious shortage of skilled workers occurs.
Some CNMI residents realize that granting permanent residency to the foreign workers is the only solution. In a letter to the editor published in the Saipan Tribune, Rota resident Justin Manglona wrote:
What CNMI officials need to do is to work with U.S. Immigration to grant all foreign workers who came here legally and have been working for at least five years U.S. citizenship or at the very least a green card. Without them, practically all businesses in the CNMI will close down. This is a fact that the federal government needs to know. The small number of our people who are unemployed and receiving food stamps are unskilled, old, or disabled. The few that can be trained (if there is training money) would leave the CNMI once they have the skills because the salaries are better elsewhere. So the cycle of labor shortages will never be solved. Again, we need to impress on the U.S. Congress that the CNMI lacks the necessary labor pool for any meaningful development. Thus U.S. immigration policies need to be more accommodating to allow foreign workers to remain. No country in the world, including the United States, China, or Japan, can do everything by themselves like medical research, inventions, and other technological work without experts from other countries partnering with them. So the idea that come 2014 all foreign workers in the CNMI must leave is a racist policy that has no place in our democratic government.Well stated.