CNMI to adopt locals-first hiring policy

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CNMI employers planning to hire temporary foreign labor under the CW-1 program would have to obtain temporary certification justifying the recruitment of a non-U.S. worker.

The temporary labor certification (TLC) is issued by the CNMI Department of Labor. The CW-1 is a CNMI-only transitional worker visa program.

The Department of Labor posted an interim final rule (IFR) on the federal register on Saturday. According to the IFR, the department is issuing new regulations governing the certification of temporary employment opportunities to be filled by nonimmigrant workers in the CNMI.

The new rules establish the process of getting the  DOL certification for petitioning the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to employ a nonimmigrant worker in the CW-1 program.

According to the federal register posting, a TLC granted by the department should confirm that there are insufficient U.S. workers in the CNMI who are “able, willing, qualified, and available” to fill the petitioning employer’s job opportunity.

“The TLC also confirms that a foreign worker’s employment in the job opportunity will not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers,” the IFR said.

The IFR takes effect on April 4, at 2:00 p.m. (CHST) however, interested parties can still submit written comments on or before May 31.

Unemployment rate high

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that in 2016, foreign workers in the CNMI made up 53 percent of those employed and filled the majority of all hospitality and construction jobs.

During the audit period, the estimated employment level was 29,215 workers (15,559 foreign workers and 13,656 domestic workers) in 2016, while the number of unemployed persons was 2,386 persons.

“Historically, the unemployment rate in the CNMI has been higher than 10 percent because many unemployed persons in the CNMI lack the skill sets and work experience required for the jobs filled by foreign workers, even though many of those jobs are for low-skilled workers,” GAO said.

According to the CNMI Department of Commerce’s estimate, there were 2,646 unemployed persons in the CNMI in the fourth quarter of 2017, 53.1 percent (1,406) of whom were U.S. citizens and 11.7 percent (310) of whom were permanent residents.

The updated rules that require labor certification aim at tapping the unemployed pool in the CNMI.

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Louella Losinio
Louella Losinio is PNC's managing editor. She was a former reporter for the Marianas Variety (Guam Edition) and the Guam Daily Post, former editor-in-chief and co-founder of the Pacific Island Times,. As a freelance writer, she has contributed content to various regional and local publications such as the Marianas Business Journal, Guam Business Magazine, The Guamanian, and Island Times. Aside from her decade-long experience in the media and print industry, Louella has experience in technical writing, education, and nonprofit management.