Governor asks US DOL: Allow NMI to continue using 2016 prevailing wage survey

GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres is asking the U.S. Department of Labor to allow the CNMI to use the 2016 prevailing wage survey for worker visa petitions for fiscal year 2020.

The 2016 prevailing wage report expires in September and the CNMI Department of Commerce is still waiting for funding for a new survey which may take about six months to complete.

In his letter on Friday, the governor told U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta that in the six months since the enactment of U.S. Public Law 115-118 or the Northern Marianas U.S. Workforce Act, “the CNMI has not received guidance or regulatory language on the statistical standards or criteria required for an annualized survey of wages… As wage levels and economic circumstances differ greatly between the CNMI and the territory of Guam, the creation of a CNMI-based survey is necessary to avoid economic harm to employers within our economy.”

Torres said “in the absence of regulations or guidance on the performance of this survey, I am concerned that the CNMI will have neither the resources nor the time to provide adequate findings before the application window opens in April. Moreover, the CNMI is still recovering from the destruction of Super Typhoon Yutu, which has greatly limited available resources and has impacted our economy and our workforce.”

For these reasons, the governor said he is asking for Acosta’s assistance “in providing additional clarification on the application of [the provision on a prevailing wage survey]” and requesting  “consideration in interpreting the prevailing wage requirements of the CW-1 program in a similar manner as the H1-B program” as well as  permission for the CNMI “to utilize the 2016 prevailing wage survey findings for petitions filed for fiscal year 2020.”

According to the governor, “Providing the additional time and clarity on the production of this survey will allow U.S. DOL to make a reasoned and informed decision on filed petitions without doing unnecessary harm to the CNMI economy and its workers.”

Torres said he “must stress that if the CNMI were to revert to using the mean of wages of workers in Guam, businesses here will be strained, and the employment of U.S. workers will be negatively impacted by this decision.”

The governor likewise asked Acosta to include the CNMI Department of Labor in the determination of the availability of U.S. workers since its federal counterpart “does not possess labor force data for the CNMI nor is the CNMI a participant of the Occupational Employment Statistics program under the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Torres said his administration is eager to assist in this process, as processing times for CW-1 petitions are critical in order to maintain the ongoing operations of the CNMI economy.

“Delays in the processing of CW-1 petitions remain an ongoing concern among my constituents and I reiterate my offer to assist in this process,” he added.