Friday, May 25, 2007

The Guest Worker Bill Updated

The big news of the day is House Bill 15-38, which seeks to change the amount of time immigrant workers can stay on island to a limit of 54 months, presumably for the purpose of employing locals in the private sector. The Tribune is silent on the bill. Here is the Variety's synopsis:

"Foreign workers will be required to exit the CNMI every 54 months or four
and-a-half years, and will not be allowed to transfer to another employer at the
expiration of their contracts, according to a 63-page bill that seeks to change
— yet again — the commonwealth’s labor laws and regulations. House Bill 15-38 —
which is backed by the Fitial administration and will be introduced by Rep.
Cinta M. Kaipat, Covenant-Saipan – has been described as “anti-business” by
members of the business and legal communities."

Zaldy Dandan, a friend of mine and someone who is great at giving the straight dope especially on specific topics, excoriated the bill today. I prefer his more specific columns, like this one, to his paeans to uber-limited government. His points seem pretty persuasive to me.

Cinta has enough of my esteem to convince me otherwise, and I'm eager to hear her comments on this bill. My initial reaction is I can't see how this bill helps the problem of employing local folks. They, understandably, don't want to work for $3.05. Those abysmal wages are more competitive in the Philippines and China, albeit still abysmal. Businesses can just bring in another guest worker, but now they have to train a newbie instead of keeping the experienced worker, so there would be a loss of efficiency. This bill, according to Z's column, allows locals to sue if a foreigner gets the job and they don't, so locals could be paid for nothing. I suppose some people will like that, sadly a lot actually, but that is indeed business unfriendly, not to mention the idea of losing a long term, successful employee because four and a half years are up. According to Dandan:

"This latest “reform” bill, moreover, creates “a whole new cause of action
created for unsuccessful local job applicants. They can sue and get six months
wages, plus damages plus attorney’s fees if an employer hires a foreign worker
instead of a ‘qualified’ local. No other criteria are allowed to be considered:
employment history, criminal history, work ethic, attitude etc.”Here, clearly,
the intent is to obligate the private sector to take in locals that the broke
government can no longer afford to hire. As if this would finally persuade local
residents to take $3.05-an-hour jobs doing real work."
I actually don't see anyone liking this bill: businesses, contract workers and even locals, except those that might sue and get money for nothing. Maybe if they get their "chicks for free" it will be a better bill. Let's hear your story on this one, Cinta.
I watched Cinta's interview on KMCV, and I think she is very sincere in thinking this bill will improve employment among locals. She mentioned the provisions about orientations that will eliminate the sham jobs where immigrants pay businesses to say they have a job just to stay here. That is a positive element. Down the line when the wages go higher, this bill might turn out positive for local workers. For the next few years, no one will much like it. I don't think $3.55 will motivate people much more than $3.05 did.
I enjoyed Ed Propst's long, necessary lashing out about the sludge dumping, and not because it mentioned me favorably. I am glad to see someone new overcome this:

"For several months, I have sat by quietly, saying nothing when I really should have been saying something. Being an entrepreneur and a business owner, I bit my tongue when I wanted to lash out. Maybe it was because I was afraid I might end up offending and losing a potential business client. Or maybe it was because I thought someone else would speak up for me."

The old saying notes "Silence equals approbation," so the more people that speak out against the endless parade of nonsense here, the better. Welcome to the party Ed.


bill said...

Passed bills are good if they are put to practice. Have the right connection and one can as usual get exemption from the exit clause

Weird Elle said...

(hello jeff)

54 months -- just a few months short of 5 years.

Even if the US Senate, the House and President Bush pass/sign the federal immigration takeover bill (in its current form), it will not benefit foreign workers who have been legally employed in the CNMI for less than 5 years if Cinta`s bill is signed into law.

The non-exempt workers who will not be grandfathered by the federal bill would be sent home before they reach 5 years (and they therefore would not qualify for a permanent residency status)

this is just one of the sentiments about the bill. we`ve already heard/read what businesses and locals have to say about this bill. i also wonder what the feds have to say.

Angelo said...

I think there are a lot of locals who don't care one bit what the overseas workers want. The thinking goes, "this is our island."

Whatever the outcome of Cinta's bill or the federal legislation, there are going to be some winners and some losers.

I thank God that I'm a college educated American citizen. The changes that are coming are going to affect me, but they'll affect me the least. The people hit the hardest are going to be the poor, both local and non-resident.

Bush is expected to sign the minimum wage legislation over the weekend. It will be interesting to see if the doom and gloom comes true.

dengre said...

One should note that the time limit is based on the OIA draft of CNMI Immigration reform. It would grant rights to any worker who has been on the CNMI for more than Five years.

54 months shuts that down for future "Guest Workers". Even as the US Congress works to end the current system of abuse, the CNMI local government works to create new ways to maintain the system of abuse.

This proposed law is just a grotesque manifestation of how corrupt the CNMI has become.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Whenever I hear OIA, I think Orlando International Airport.

marianas life said...

my understanding is the 5 year option is a one time deal anyway. so even if the cnmi law says 54 months it doesn't matter because the feds were only going to offer one window of opportunity to apply for the visa, similar to the FAS visas, not the same as a green card.