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By Agnes Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, March 28) – Difficulty of implementation and allegations of inequity have prompted the Fitial administration to junk its work-hour reduction plan and push instead for a legislated salary cut.

Press secretary Charles P. Reyes Jr. said yesterday that the governor's legal counsel is now working with the Legislature's lawyers to draft a bill that would implement a 10-percent salary cut across the board.

A work-hour reduction would have meant smaller paychecks for government workers, but more time off. On the other hand, a salary reduction would simply mean smaller paychecks for the same amount of time at work.

Reyes explained that a compensation cut is a simpler approach to decreasing personnel costs because it does not entail scheduling and leave issues, among other things.

"With salary reduction, fewer calculations have to be made," he said.

He added that the new proposal would address some employees' concern about fairness. The salary cut would cover all employees, regardless of compensation rate or the government agency they work for.

"It is the Legislature's preference to take this simpler approach. It is less complicated and it is fairer and more equitable," he said.

Furthermore, Reyes noted that a legislated salary reduction could be implemented sooner than a work-hour cut, which requires a 60-day notification period.

"We would have to wait until June before the work-hour reduction could kick in. But a salary reduction could happen as soon as the bill is processed and signed by the governor into law. It's even possible to have it done in one day," he said.

The administration's original plan was to cut government work time by four hours a week. Government personnel earning an annual salary of $20,000 or less would have been exempted from the reduction. The exemption would have also applied to those working for essential agencies such as the departments of Public Health, Public Safety, and Corrections, Public School System, and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.

In related news, House minority member Stanley T. Torres asked Speaker Oscar M. Babauta yesterday for his need for the part-time assistance of the House legal counsel for the next few weeks.

"During this time of budget turmoil, I realize that the governor is submitting various plans to correct the many problems in the Executive Branch. While I stand to assist the governor in any worthwhile endeavor, I am also ready to challenge any part of his plans that appear to need challenging for the overall betterment of our people," Torres said in a memorandum to Babauta.

He had earlier written the governor to question the legality of the work-hour reduction plan.

March 28, 2006

Saipan Tribune

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