Chinese Workers Took 'Huge Risk' Taking Construction Jobs In CNMI

Disgruntled employees await payment of wages

By Jon Perez 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 19, 2017) – Wang Feng Kai, Jang Xu, Jiang Jinxu, Heilong Jiang, and 76 others took a huge risk by coming to the CNMI and working as construction laborers even though they knew they would enter the CNMI as tourists and work illegally. And just like the construction workers at MCC International, they too allegedly have yet to receive their wages.

Imperial Pacific International CNMI tapped Beilida Overseas, MCC along, Gold Mantis, which hired Wang and his compatriots, as subcontractors to work on their multimillion-dollar Imperial Pacific Resort casino hotel project.

They became the third group to stage a protest yesterday after Sino Great Wall and MCC workers in December last year and on Friday, respectively. But unlike MCC workers, Wang and his colleagues didn’t have their passports taken from them by their employers.

Their contacts in China even said to them not to ask any questions, don’t talk to anybody, and just do what was told them what to do at the construction site.

It is not yet known if Gold Mantis is connected with Suzhou Gold Mantis Construction Decoration Co. Ltd. since they have the same company logo. Suzhou Gold Mantis designed and built the Beijing National Olympic Stadium, more popularly known as the Bird’s Nest, the main hub of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

In 2014, an executive of the Suzhou City-based firm was arrested on alleged corruption activities with then Nanjing Mayor Ji Jianye.

Wang, through an interpreter, said they were recruited in different provinces in China where a “broker” from a recruitment agency tapped by Gold Mantis informed them that they would enter the CNMI as tourists under the China parole authority program.

“We were told by the agency that all documents that would allow them to work on Saipan would be processed here by our employer once we arrive. Some of us have been on Saipan for five months while others arrived 20 days ago,” said Wang.

“We are no longer working since April 3 and they have not paid us from Feb. 27 to April 2. We’re worried with our own safety and we don’t know what will happen to us,” added the 43-year-old native of Henan province.

Their employers promised them payment of at least 300 yuan or $43.55 for an eight-hour workday with an hour of overtime worth 1.5 times their hourly rate. Wang, however, said they are not getting any overtime pay.

The $43.55 rate for eight hours is only $5.44, which is lower than the $6.55 hourly salary that was also promised to them and the mandated minimum wage in the CNMI.

Jang, another worker, was even injured after getting burned while helping out at the cafeteria. He said that he is still feeling the effects of his injury.

Verbal contracts

Wang, who served as the spokesperson of the group, said they are demanding their employer pay them the $6.55 per hour rate as promised to them, return the other expenses that was deducted on their payroll, to have their wages paid when their employer informed them that they have to stop working, provide a return ticket home, and refund the $50 to $100 collected from them for their uniforms.

There was a report that Gold Mantis already has the money but they are still computing the salary of the workers so they would give them the exact amount.

Wang said Gold Mantis gave them a document on Monday night where they were asked to sign as proof that they had already received their salaries. The line that would have said how much they have received was left blank that’s why they did not sign it.

They also did not sign a letter provided by their employer stating that they are no longer the responsibility of their employer.

Wang and his compatriots, however, only had a verbal agreement with the “broker” and hold no formal contract. They hold no contract since all of the promises and issues regarding their work were done verbally.

Statements

The Governor’s Office finally broke its silence and issued a statement yesterday on the labor and immigration issues involving IPI’s subcontractors.

The statement said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres continues to monitor the situation and join Belinda’s employees’ call of getting all wages the company owes to them.

“This issue highlights a concern Torres has continually made public statements about regarding the hiring of foreign workers who enter the CNMI as tourists since the details of these illegal practices were brought to light about a month ago,” said the statement.

“The governor has met with Imperial Pacific, the airline industry, and relevant stakeholders to tell them this practice is not permitted and is to the detriment of the CNMI economy.”

In the absence of full jurisdiction to curtail this practice among certain employers, the Governor’s Office has reached out to the United States Department of Homeland Security to begin the process outlined under Section 287 (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

INA’s Section 287 (g) would allow the CNMI to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Attorney General to grant CNMI Labor officers authority to perform certain actions of federal immigration officers.

If granted, the CNMI can take proactive steps to ensure all employees working in the CNMI are legally authorized to work on our islands, and if they are not, enact penalties and deport the offenders.

“Gov. Torres will continue to work with the Legislature and the federal government to put forward the resources to penalize those who threaten to harm our community’s progress,” added the statement.

IPI chair Mark A. Brown, in an earlier statement, said they too are concerned on the situation of the workers hired by their subcontractors. He added reports of workers that break the law are also their concern.

Brown added IPI is willing to terminate contracts with construction firms if they fail to follow federal and local laws.

Saipan Tribune
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