‘We will continue to protest’

FIVE construction workers formerly employed by the casino investor’s subcontractor staged another protest on Friday to demand their “legal wages.”

Li Qiang, Guo Qing Hui, Xu Long Cai, Gong Ben Ji and Fang Yu Guo drafted the following statement with the help of an interpreter:

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Protesting workers hold a banner outside the Imperial Palace in Garapan.  Photo by Cherrie Anne E. VillahermosaProtesting workers hold a banner outside the Imperial Palace in Garapan. Photo by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

“We are a group of workers who came to Saipan to help construct this casino. Some of us paid over $6,000 to recruiters based on lies about the good jobs here. We then worked 13-hour days in Saipan’s heat with little rest. We were docked pay or fired when we were sick. And we were never paid what we were legally owed.

“We did not accept the casino’s offer to pay part of what we are owed. The casino then threatened to evict us [from the apartment units it is renting for us] and stopped providing food and water. After this, we began protesting three days ago, but [up to now] nobody from the casino has appeared to consult with us. They still refuse to provide us with food or water. Are we wrong for requesting our legal wages?

“When we see the beautiful casino, which each of us expended our own hands, our own sweat to build…we actually have a feeling of pride. But, thinking of how some of us dedicated four months of our lives to that building, and have now been without work for eight months as we wait to be paid our legal wage, we feel very hurt. The whole situation is extremely unfair.

“We are simply asking for the same compensation received by the people who worked alongside us on the casino. We want to be paid the minimum wage and overtime under the law. We want liquidated damages because we are being paid eight months after we should have been paid and we want compensation for the recruitment fees we paid. If we were paid our wages, we would not need the casino’s food, water, or housing. Left with no other choice, we will continue to protest for what we are owed.”

Imperial Pacific, in an earlier statement, said the workers have wage claims against subcontractors.

“To facilitate a speedy resolution of the wage claims and to reunite the workers with their families, Imperial Pacific, through the CNMI Department of Labor, provided the workers with additional humanitarian aid in the form of a one-time payment of the workers’ back wages and repatriation costs.

“Imperial Pacific successfully repatriated a majority of the displaced workers with the help and guidance of the CNMI Department of Labor. Unfortunately, some workers did not agree with the CNMI Department of Labor’s payment calculations and continued to demand more money regardless of the fact that the additional humanitarian aid will not preclude the workers from pursuing additional payments from their employer.

“Imperial Pacific respects the remaining workers’ decision to refuse its humanitarian support and to seek compensation beyond what the CNMI Department of Labor determined they are owed.”