‘Tourist’ Visa Construction Workers In Saipan Protest Over Unpaid Wages, Broken Promises

Governor’s office: “We’ll provide a comment after we’ve reviewed the grievances of the protesters.”

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, April 17, 2017) – Over 50 construction workers brought here by MCC International as tourists staged a protest action on Friday morning near the Imperial Pacific casino construction site, saying they have not been paid their wages for three months now.

They also accused MCC International — Imperial Pacific’s contractor — of lying to them about their immigration status, saying they were led to believe they were working on Saipan legally. All of them have tourist visas.

CNMI Secretary of Labor Edith Deleon Guerrero talked to the protesters through an interpreter, a T Galleria-Duty Free Shopping employee. Through the interpreter, the workers told Deleon Guerrero that they each paid their recruiter, Gold Mantis, $3,000 to $5,000 to work here.

“We need our money back. Their agents lied to us. They told us we would be working here legally, but we just found out we’re not. We hold travel visas only. Now we don’t have money to buy tickets or food,” said the note they handed to T Galleria-DFS employee Mike Jahng.

Through Jahng, the construction workers said they have been working for three months but they have not been paid. They said they never intended to work on Saipan illegally, but their recruiter assured them they were here legally. The construction workers said they tried to talk to MCC International’s management, but there was no one at the MCC office.

Deleon Guerrero said she was told that the contractor was trying to get the workers’ passports. “We will reach out to…[MCC] officials…and I will do everything that I can under my authority and [through all] of my contacts to help…address all of the issues [the workers] are facing — from food and lodging, to unpaid wages and their passports.” Deleon Guerrero thanked T Galleria DFS president Marianne Aldan-Pierce for allowing one of her staffers to act as a translator.

The construction workers, according to the translator, were hungry, but when Rep. Ed Propst arrived and offered them bread most of them seemed afraid to accept it. One of them said they were wary of the non-protesting workers watching them.

Propst said the workers’ plight is a humanitarian issue that “we cannot ignore.”

“There are numerous complaints about illegal workers and illegal activities going on. There were numerous complaints that we have submitted. And they were all ignored, and we were sometimes told it was out of our hands,” he said. “We have the Department of Labor here, we have the administration, but we obviously have to wait as usual for the federal authorities to intervene. I asked for an oversight hearing to investigate the accidental death of a worker. But I got rejected by the speaker and they said ‘Let’s leave it to the authorities to take care of.’ ”

He recalled that two days after his proposal was rejected, the Federal Bureau Investigation raided the offices of Imperial Pacific’s contractors, MCC and Beilida Overseas. Propst also noted that many of the construction workers refused to accept the food he had offered. “I’m sure some of them wanted the food, the way they looked at it, but it seems that there are people around telling them not to take the food. I don’t know why,” he said. “This is deplorable. This is shameful, and I am really embarrassed that the Commonwealth Casino Commission, the regulating body for the casino, has done nothing but make excuses for them. They actually stated on record that the workers caught illegally working will not have an impact on the casino. As public servants, we need to start doing something about this. I beg everyone out there to call the governor and the casino commission. Call the other elected officials to do something about this. This is another black eye for the CNMI.”

Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC. issued the following statement on Friday afternoon:

“Imperial Pacific International is strongly reiterating that it does not condone the hiring and or employment of individuals by illegal means.

“Imperial Pacific International is emphatic in its request to all of its contractors and subcontractors to follow all local and federal labor and immigration laws and regulations in the conduct of its business, including and in particular, the hiring of construction workers.

“Imperial Pacific International also implores all of its contractors and subcontractors to faithfully follow and fulfill contractual commitments and obligations to their workers and Imperial Pacific International, and resolve all labor issues appropriately.

“Imperial Pacific International is issuing this statement to further clarify that the peaceful gathering of MCC International workers has to do with MCC International and does not involve Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC., and that the concerns raised by the workers are now being addressed accordingly.”

The governor’s office stated: “We’ll provide a comment after we’ve reviewed the grievances of the protesters.”

Radio New Zealand International
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