By Agnes E. Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Sept. 15) - The cap on the number of alien workers that can be hired by the CNMI’s garment industry may be eliminated "in the very near future," Variety learned.

Kevin Lynch, legal counsel for the Department of Labor, said they are now working on new regulations that would suspend the cap on garment workers.

"We’re working on regulations that, for the time being, would eliminate the cap so that employers can hire the number of people that they need (in the garment factories) and to reflect the fact that the industry has changed since (the cap) came into effect," Lynch told Variety.

He said they have already drafted the regulations and circulated them so that the garment industry could comment on them.

"We hope, in the very near future, to be able to get those (regulations) implemented," he said.

Lynch, however, added that the lifting of the cap will be done on a trial basis.

"For the time being, we’re going to lift the cap. And then after a period, we will review what has happened in the industry and see if we need to take additional steps to make additional recommendations to stabilize the whole industry," he added.

Last Friday, some 800 garment workers participated in the transfer hearing at the multi-purpose center in Susupe.

The workers were parties in the Fair Labor Standards Act civil action filed against the Saipan Garment Manufacturers Association.

Last April, U.S. District Court Judge Alex R. Munson approved a $20 million settlement agreement.

The Department of Labor on Friday issued to the workers an administrative order allowing them to seek a new employer within 45 days.

According to the order prepared by Hearing Officer Linn Asper, those who would fail to file a permit application with DOL within 45 days would have to show cause for their failure to do so at a hearing on Nov. 12.

Otherwise, they would be required to leave the commonwealth immediately.

Some of the workers, however, said they have been having a hard time finding new employment because garment companies told them they have already reached the cap and that they could no longer hire new employees.

September 15, 2003

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