Lawmaker: NMI workforce at ‘very critical stage’

THE CNMI workforce is now at a “very critical stage,” House Federal and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Luis John Castro said.

Luis John Castro

He and other committee members met with Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corp. president Alex Sablan on Tuesday to discuss the concerns of employers who are bracing for the looming exodus of workers on CW-1 permits that will expire in September.

The ongoing prevailing wage survey by the Department of Commerce in conjunction with Saipan Chamber of Commerce through Hive Analytics and DataTalks is projected to be completed next month. Only then can employers apply for temporary labor certifications from the U.S. Department of Labor which is a requirement before they can submit petitions for CW-1 permits.

In an interview, Castro said lawmakers, the business sector, the administration and federal officials “must sit down and see how we can address these concerns as soon as we can.”

“At this juncture we are at a very crucial moment,” Castro added. “As you know these issues are pretty big ones. They affect not just the workers and their employers but the entire economy as well and the ability of the government to pay its obligations. So it’s something that we, local legislators, particularly my committee, are keeping our eyes on.”

The workforce, he added, “is already shrinking and is affecting us right now. We’re only in the middle of the year, and the worst has yet to come.”