Exodus of workers to hurt NMI, speaker says

THE “exodus” of workers on CW-1 permits from the CNMI, which may happen next month, will hurt the Commonwealth, Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao said.

These workers whose CW-1 permits will expire on Sept. 30 include healthcare personnel of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.

The speaker said he was told that CHCC radiologists, for example, will have to “exit” the CNMI “because their CW papers are not done yet.”

Even some of the nurses, he said, are affected by the delay in the U.S. Department of Labor’s response to CNMI employers’ applications for temporary labor certifications or TLCs.

Without radiologists, CHCC might end up sending patients off-island for X-rays and scans and Attao said this would cost the CNMI government more money.

Those are the employees from the hospital alone.

“So you can already imagine if other entities, like the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., other big businesses, and the construction companies are suddenly without workers. We are still recovering from a super typhoon,” the speaker said.

Variety was told that based on reports and current experiences of employers applying for TLCs, it is possible that all employers who issued job vacancy announcements on Aug. 9, 2019 and afterward would not meet the Sept. 30 deadline for filing the renewal applicants and must prepare to send their CWs home.

According to local business consultant Tony Muna, “The impact of thousands of workers leaving all at one time will mean that the CNMI government will lose Wage & Salary Ch 2 taxes, BGR taxes when businesses have to reduce or close operations, and excise taxes since import of goods is not so much required with a reduction in business activity.”

Muna said a possible remedy is for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “to allow employers to file Form I129 [nonimmigration petition] as long as they attach a copy of the TLC notice of acceptance and [job vacancy announcement] filed for the applied position. Therefore, the 240 days of continuing legal status will kick in and should be sufficient time to get a TLC notice of certification.”