CNMI orders the termination and furlough of government employees

CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres (file photo)

All CNMI department and activity heads were advised Tuesday by the Office of Personnel Management that due to the economic impact of COVID-19, the CNMI government must implement “extreme measures” to ensure that the executive branch has sufficient funds to pay its employees.

In a memorandum, OPM Director Isidro Seman said: “With an estimated reduction in FY 2020 budget funding of 48 percent, the government cannot maintain its current number of employees.

“Consequently, it will be necessary to terminate all Excepted Service employees, other than those in federally funded positions or expressly exempted by the Governor, and to furlough sufficient Civil Service employees for a one-year period, to reduce the government’s personnel costs by 50 percent.”

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Seman asked department heads to submit a list of furloughed or terminated employees to the governor’s office on Wednesday.

“The governor acknowledges that this will be a difficult task and suggests that you address it by position and not by the individual occupying the position,” Seman said.

“The governor emphasized that this is not the occasion to make retention decisions based on family or friendship, but on the needs and best interests of the government, based on performance and service.”

In a statement on Tuesday, CNMI Press Secretary Kevin Bautista said:

“This is a very, very difficult spot for our government to be in. Our government is working diligently through the CNMI Department of Labor to get official confirmation on the eligibility of our government employees to be on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.”

He added, “Our economy is at a standstill, at a very unprecedented level that we have never seen before in the history of the CNMI, in the history of this country, where the economy in states and territories have essentially stopped because social distancing is the only factor that we can control in combating this pandemic as we continue to wait for vaccines and medical treatment for Covid-19.

“We’re in this together, and we need to continue to work together to overcome this virus.”