Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 19 Oct 2019 12am







    Friday, October 18, 2019-4:43:34P.M.






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Board approves MVA work-hour cut

THE work hours of the Marianas Visitors Authority’s 36 employees including Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo will be reduced, but MVA’s offices will remain open five days a week.

On Monday, the MVA board approved two motions that reflected the austerity directives issued by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres.

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Marianas Visitors Authority vice chair Gloria Cavanagh presides over the MVA board meeting on Monday. Also in the photo are board members Christopher J. Nelson, Warren F. Villagomez, Viola Alepuyo and Agida T. Quitugua, as well as the MVA management team led by Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo.  Photo by Junhan B. Todiño

The board agreed to cut the employees’ work hours to 72 from 80 in the next three payroll periods starting June 23.

The board also decided that all MVA offices on Saipan, Tinian and Rota will be open five days a week while giving the managing director and the managers the authority to approve “flexible” work hours for the employees.

MVA has 26 personnel on Saipan, and five each on Tinian and Rota.

By July, Cavanagh said the board will reassess the employees’ work hours based on the availability of funds. The 72-hour work schedule could be reduced to 64 hours, she added.

MVA board member Viola Alepuyo noted that MVA would still have a shortfall of $4,333.87 under the 72-hour work schedule since MVA is getting $406,951 only instead of $411,284.87.

“So what’s the alternative? We have to pay them [employees],” she added.

Iakopo said they may have to tap their reserved funds, but Cavanagh added that they shouldn’t, and if MVA doesn’t get its funding allotments, then it may have to further reduce its working hours.

“I don’t want to say immediately that we’re going to tap into our reserves because reserves are reserved,” Cavanagh said.

At the meeting, MVA chief accountant Joanne Paraiso said MVA needs $230,000 a month for payroll and operations which include the maintenance of tourist sites.

Cavanagh said they will observe the standard operating procedure which is not to approve the expenditure of funds if it does not deal directly with MVA’s promotions and marketing programs.

In an interview, Cavanagh said they cannot ask the central government to exempt MVA from the austerity measures because “the emergency proclamation is very clear: we’re not getting what has been collected.”

She said although MVA “can demand” its share of the hotel occupancy tax collections, but “what is that going to do? Can you get blood from a stone? We’ve tried it, but it’s very difficult to ask for something that’s not there.”

MVA board member Chris Nelson said they are in a “very serious situation” and they don’t need people to work less but to work harder.

“So it’s very scary to me that we are putting less effort into our mission. And payroll is a very small part of our overall expenses,” he said, adding that MVA is different from other agencies whose payroll is much larger than their funding for operations.

He urged MVA management to solicit input from managers on how they can save costs while ensuring that their marketing projects are still effective.

“I’m worried that we may be sending a message out that we’re just cutting people’s pay which can affect how we market the destination,” he added.