23 Nov 2009

CNMI workers' advocate claims more than 1,000 awaiting wage settlement

11:26 am on 23 November 2009

An advocate for the workers of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands' now defunct garment industry says more than a thousand contract workers are awaiting the settlement of unpaid wage claims.

The Saipan Tribune reports the Department of Labor as having submitted to the Superior Court a list containing three hundred and 59 names of mainly Chinese and Filipino workers who still have judicial review matters in court.

The assistant attorney general is alleged to have filed the list pursuant to a court order granting two-year transition conditional permits or "umbrella permits" to these workers as the CNMI prepares for the application of federalised immigration laws.

An advocate of contract worker's rights, Ron Hodges, says most of the workers are living at subsistence level.

"Over a thousand at least but I don't control the statistics bureau here. We are a tropical island and don't have freezing weather and food is plentiful here it's not an easy place to starve on, there are plenty of vegetables and fruits and coconuts and fish so most people are living on subsisistence. They're working for incredibly low wages and fishing to feed themselves and their families."