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    Friday, November 16, 2018-8:15:40P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Governor meets with terminated H2-B workers

GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres met Wednesday with some of the construction workers terminated by Imperial Pacific International and said he will look into their situation.

The 22 workers who met with the governor were hired as masons for the ongoing casino project in Garapan and were employed on H-2B visas by  IPI. One of them said his pay rate was $14.27 per hour.

Some of the construction workers terminated by Imperial Pacific International pose with Gov. Ralph Torres, Rep. Angel Demapan and Filipino-American community member Irene Holl after their meeting at the governor’s office on Wednesday.  Photo by Cherrie Anne E. VillahermosaSome of the construction workers terminated by Imperial Pacific International pose with Gov. Ralph Torres, Rep. Angel Demapan and Filipino-American community member Irene Holl after their meeting at the governor’s office on Wednesday. Photo by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

Also at the meeting was Rep. Angel Demapan.

The workers said there are 80 of them who were terminated by IPI “for no grounds at all.”

They said 20 of them are leaving the island at 2 a.m. today, Thursday, and returning to the Philippines.

IPI, in a statement, said it is adjusting the labor supply based on the demands of the construction project.

 “This adjustment is in line with effective workforce planning and efficiency improvement of the project,” IPI added.

The governor told the workers he  could not promise anything, but added that he will try his best to  find out why they were terminated.

He asked them if they were mistreated by IPI. The workers said no.

The workers said  they have been compensated and were even reimbursed for the fees they paid so they could work here.

The governor asked them if they wanted to come back to Saipan, and the workers said yes, adding that all they want is to be given more time to find new employers.

They said they have already accepted the termination of their work-contracts with IPI, but added that they want to continue working here.

The governor said it is unfortunate that the workers must leave as their H-2B visa is valid for just three months.

The workers arrived in July and their contracts were renewed by IPI until Jan. 31, 2019.

That’s why they were surprised to receive a termination letter last week.

They said IPI would not have renewed them if they had performed poorly.

The governor asked them if they could work under a different job category such as farming, electrical or maintenance. The workers said yes.

In an interview, Torres said: “We will try to work out something for those who may fall under the CW category and who can be hired as farmers or electricians or other available job categories.”

Rep. Angel Demapan said: “It’s unfortunate that we have this situation, and is one of the issues that we have with the  H-2B program. It was why we pushed for the CW category because there is more certainty and stability with that program. Unfortunately, we have to use  H-2B workers because of  federal control, but this is an unfortunate situation for the workers. At this point, we’d like to communicate first with IPI and find out what the basis was for the decision to terminate the workers. We are glad to learn that the employer fulfilled their obligations to the workers who will receive severance pay.”

Demapan said one reason he attended the meeting was “to express our appreciation to the workers for coming here to work. We also wish to assure them that this is not the right way to treat workers in the CNMI. We want them to be able to return home with good memories and to be able to come back here in the near future. Nonetheless, at this point, the least that we can do is to engage with the employer and find out what led to the termination.”