Guam DOL firming up H2 labor contract with Philippines

(PNC graphic by Ricky De Guzman)

Guam labor officials are trying to secure an islandwide contract to ease the process for local companies looking to hire Filipino H2-visa workers.

The Philippines opened their “Philippine Overseas Labor Office” – known as POLO – to deal with all the requests for H2 workers. The country was taken off the U.S. H2 list of approved countries early last year and Guam has an exemption through a Defense Authorization Act.

As it stands, Guam contractors have to send their contracts and their requests for Filipino workers to the LA-based POLO office for the labor attache to sign off on.

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David Dell’Isola, Guam Department of Labor director, said: “I’ve called the attache and have been working with her to educate her on how strong our program is and how much different it is from the States. We have so many more mechanisms in place and we don’t have programs with overstay, we don’t have human trafficking problems and we vet everybody that comes in and we visit the sites and monitor. And, she was very impressed. And, we are asking for thousands of H2s and it’s covered under the NDAA, which is separate from the States.”

And with a multi-billion dollar military buildup on island, the need for skilled labor is great.

Dell’Isola said they were trying to finalize a labor contract with the Philippines when COVID-19 hit.

“Once everything opens back up, I’ll go there and negotiate if we can get a countrywide exemption contract in place because of the high wages that we pay, that we can be exempt from some of their requirements,” Dell’Isola said.

He added that the need for H2s on Guam is nothing new. But the conversations around how to meet the island’s demands most efficiently are continuing to evolve.

The POLO attache was scheduled to come out to Guam for a visit before COVID hit. But of course, that trip was also a victim of the pandemic’s restrictions.

Dell’Isola says the office opened there the prove to the U.S. that the Philippines should be back on the H2 allowable list for the mainland.

Congressman Michael San Nicolas recently amended the language in Guam’s most recent NDAA to include not just “military projects” but workers on sites “associated with” the military buildup for outside the fence projects as well.