Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 21 Sep 2017 12am

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    Wednesday, September 20, 2017-7:49:55P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Gold Mantis breaks silence; Imperial Pacific ‘denounces’ contractors’ illegal acts

GOLD Mantis Construction Decoration (CNMI) LLC on Friday said it is working with the CNMI and federal governments to provide humanitarian aid to its construction workers who have been protesting since last week over unpaid wages.

In an email, the company stated:

“Gold Mantis has been providing, and is continuing to provide, humanitarian aid to as many as 91 individuals who we understand were, until recently, working on the Imperial Pacific hotel and casino project. Gold Mantis has been working with both CNMI and U.S. government authorities and a local charitable organization (Karidat) with respect to the logistics of providing this humanitarian aid, which includes food, water and lodging.”

Asked about the workers’ unpaid salaries, Gold Mantis said: “Unfortunately, we are not able to respond further at this time.”

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Gold Mantis workers stage a protest near the Imperial Pacific casino construction site in Garapan, Friday.  Contributed photo

On Friday at 9 a.m., about 60 Gold Mantis construction workers held another protest rally near the Imperial Pacific casino construction site in Garapan. Some of them marched from their barracks in Chinatown while others said they came by taxi from their new barracks in Dandan where the CNMI Department of Labor transported them last week.

Through an interpreter, the workers said they are demanding to be paid based on the current federal minimum wage rate applicable to the CNMI which is $6.55 an hour. They also said that they have not received their wages — which are below the required rate — for a month and a half. They said they were supposed to get 300 yuan or $43.57 for nine hours a day, and 50 yuan or $7.26 in overtime pay an hour. They also told Variety that a $500 “introduction” fee was deducted from the first paycheck they received from Gold Mantis. The workers said they arrived on Saipan as “tourists.”

Imperial Pacific International on Sunday issued the following statement:

“Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC., is issuing this statement to publicly denounce in the strongest terms the harboring and the use of illegal workers by some of its contractors and subcontractors, and the utter disregard of the rights and well-being of these affected individuals, hired for the Imperial Pacific Resort construction project.

“Imperial Pacific International joins the general public in disavowing this form of illegal practice, which continues to do harm to the commonwealth and expose the CNMI to potential negative economic repercussions.

“Imperial Pacific International has been consistent on requiring all its vendors including contractors and subcontractors to follow federal and local laws. This practice is reflected in clear and unconditional terms in all contracts.

“Imperial Pacific International will continue to collaborate and partner with federal and local authorities in the amicable resolution of the issues involved, and the safe and immediate repatriation of affected workers/individuals.”

Injured

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From left, Wang Tian Ming, Han Dong, Sun Liang Kai and their Gold Mantis co-workers at their barracks in Dandan.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

Also on Sunday, three Gold Mantis construction workers said they were injured while at work but were neither taken to the hospital nor paid for sick leave.

The three are Sun Liang Cai Wang Tian Ming and   Han Dong who showed this reporter the pictures of the injuries they said they suffered at the worksite in February and March.

Through an interpreter, they said they were never taken to a doctor and were told by their safety officer that they would not get paid for the days they were not able to work due to their injuries.

Sun said at around 8 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2017, his finger got jammed between heavy objects and a heavy box fell on it. He said he could not work for three days.

He was given first aid and prescribed medicines, but the employer did not pay for them. He said he had to pay himself by borrowing money from his coworkers.

Wang said he sustained a burn injury to his left leg at around 7 p.m. on March 17, 2017. He said he was never taken to a doctor even though he could barely walk. When he went to the Gold Mantis project office, he said he was given some cream and antibiotics.

Han said his finger was injured at 10 p.m. on Feb 7, 2017 but was told to take care of it himself. He was never taken to a doctor.

He said he also suffered construction injuries in China but was taken to a doctor.

Han believes that the fact that they had to work until 10 p.m. and had so little rest were factors that contributed to accidents at the worksite.

He said the safety conditions on island were worse than those he experienced in China.

The workers said they were frequently told by their manager and safety officer, Liu Wan Xiong, that when a “heigong” or a worker on a tourist visa got injured at work, it was not the concern of the company, and the worker must look after himself.

What humanitarian aid?

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Wang Fei Kai gestures as he reacts to Gold Mantis’s statement that it is providing its workers humanitarian help.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

One of the Gold Mantis workers who is staying at a Chinatown barracks disputed Gold Mantis’s claim that it is working to provide them with humanitarian aid.

Through an interpreter Wang Feng Kai said the living conditions at their barracks are not humane. Their sleeping quarters are too small and not well ventilated and their bathroom is dirty.

Although Good Day Restaurant delivers breakfast, lunch and dinner to them, he still would not call it humanitarian.

“We can only call it humanitarian aid if they pay us,” he said, adding that the company is making them feel as if they, the workers, should be thankful for “the so-called humanitarian help.”

The workers said they will continue to stage protests until Gold Mantis gives them what the company owes them.