Guam – The U.S. Department of Labor is out with its formal notice in the federal register, explaining the agency’s reasoning behind extending the CW transition program in the CNMI for five-years.
The notice sheds new light on Labor Secretary Tom Perez’s decision last week to extend the CNMI-Only worker transition program through 2019.
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And the reasoning was largely similar to that of others, including Governor Eloy Inos and Congressman Greg ‘Kilili’ Sablan, in arguing for a 5-year extension.
The notice states workforce studies “unanimously concluded…restrictions on the foreign labor supply will exacerbate the cnmi’s current economic problems…and restrain economic growth.”
Based on CNMI 2002-2012 tax data, and the 2010 island areas census, Labor concluded there’s “an insufficient number of U.S. workers in the CNMI to fill all the jobs held by foreign workers.”
It said the total number of jobless U.S. workers in the Commonwealth in 2010 was only about one-fifth of the nearly 15-thousand foreign workers.
“Even if all the U.S. workers in the labor force were employed,” the notice said, “more than 11-thousand jobs would still be needed to be filled by foreign workers.”
The Governor and Congressman both argued that without a CW extension, the local economy would be devastated–lacking available U.S. workers to fill all the jobs.
Which raises the question of training.
The CNMI told labor it continues to offer education and training to unemployed or underemployed U.S. workers and has developed a high school career technical education curriculum, responsive to employer needs.
But it’s not just a matter of training. CNMI officials said some U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents “are not willing to accept certain jobs,” including those with low-wages or few or no benefits.
Labor said on average, CNMI 2011 tax data showed foreign workers were paid almost $55-hundred dollars or 35% less than U.S. workers.
Separately, the U.S. Senate may pass this week under rules to expedite bills, an Omnibus Territories bill that would also extend the CW transition program 5-years, but to appease GOP objections will be stripped of Guam war claims provisions and a waiver of local matching requirements for small grants.